The Mini World Cup, 1998-99

When cricket really was the winner



Hansie Cronje and Brian Lara shake hands ahead of the final © Cricinfo
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The first Mini World Cup (officially the Wills International Cup) was staged specifically to raise funds for cricketing development. It made an estimated £10 million for this purpose, but its main contribution was more practical.

Dhaka was only the third-choice venue for the competition, behind Disney World in Florida, and Sharjah; and it was nearly moved to Calcutta when Bangladesh was ravaged by one of its worst ever floods only weeks before the tournament. Yet it turned out to be the perfect site. Though the Bangladeshi team was not allowed to take part, the population reacted with enormous enthusiasm to the biggest sporting event -- some said the most positive event of any kind--in the country's short, fraught, history.

It was thus a tournament in which the winning really was less important than the taking part. South Africa won it by beating West Indies in the final, but not one journalist was there from either place. All nine Test-playing countries were obliged by ICC to send teams, which they did with varying degrees of enthusiasm. England, just starting an Ashes tour, won a special dispensation to send a Second Eleven on condition it looked like an England team and included only players with experience of one-day internationals. With so many players discarded by the selectors over the years, this was not a problem. Overcoming South Africa in blistering heat was.



Sourav Ganguly drives on his to 83 against West Indies © Cricinfo
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To the world-weary, if not to the locals, much of the cricket seemed routine. All the games were played on the drearily low, slow pitch at the Bangabandhu Stadium. But the excitement of the crowd carried it all along. The knockout format, with eight matches compressed into nine days, was tough on the players but provided tension missing from normal one-day internationals. And because all the players were billeted in one (excellent) hotel, there was an Olympic village atmosphere that was to be sadly absent from the following year's World Cup.

Sachin Tendulkar seemed ubiquitous: on the field, he played the innings of the week, 141 against Australia, and purveyed his mixed-up offies and leggies with growing confidence; off the field, he seemed to be smiling winsomely in every TV advert. Jacques Kallis, who was man of the match in both the semi-final and final, and the brutal Barbadian Philo Wallace almost matched him as batsmen.

Hansie Cronje gained most in stature during the week, as both leader and player. When he held the trophy aloft, South Africa had firmly established themselves as long-range World Cup favourites. The real stars, though, were the population of Bangladesh. In villages without electricity, people huddled round radios listening to commentary, and kids began playing, Sri Lanka-style, with makeshift kit wherever there was a space. The moment Bangladesh gets a national team which does them credit, it will be cricket's boom country.

This article was published in the 2000 edition of the Wisden Almanack.

Match reports for

PQF: New Zealand v Zimbabwe at Dhaka, Oct 24, 1998
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1st QF: England v South Africa at Dhaka, Oct 25, 1998
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2nd QF: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Dhaka, Oct 26, 1998
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3rd QF: Australia v India at Dhaka, Oct 28, 1998
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4th QF: Pakistan v West Indies at Dhaka, Oct 29, 1998
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1st SF: South Africa v Sri Lanka at Dhaka, Oct 30, 1998
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2nd SF: India v West Indies at Dhaka, Oct 31, 1998
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Final: South Africa v West Indies at Dhaka, Nov 1, 1998
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© John Wisden & Co