A few decades ago, the concept of limited-overs cricket was not something that was very popular. In a bid to evolve the game further, after a few trials the Gillette Cup kick-started in a full-fledged manner on May 1, 1963. It was later on given a List A status, making it the first-ever official limited-overs series to be played. The first match of the tournament was between Lancashire and Leicestershire at Old Trafford, Manchester. Although it was set to be a one-day match, the match carried over to the next day due to rain. It was a 65-over affair.
From timeless matches to five-day games, to 50-overs, T20s to even T10s now, cricket over the last century has evolved for the enjoyment of the viewers – beginning right from the Kerry Packer series in the 70s to the most recent T10 league cricket. However, the game has managed to survive the test of times over the years and importantly Test cricket has managed to survive and even thrive amidst all this. What has changed is the variations of the format, which has further added value to the game, giving the players the chance to innovate with bat in hand or try out something new with the ball.
Although the first official match was played in 1963, its roots are to be believed to be from India. The All India Pooja Cricket Tournament was played in Thrippunithura, the erstwhile capital of Cochin from the year 1951. The name was given as it as it was organised during Navratri. This tournament came into existence due to the efforts of former cricketer KV Kelappan Thampuran, who also served as the first secretary of the Kerala Cricket Association.
Thampuran had an idea of playing a 50-over cricket tournament without any sort of restriction on the bowlers. The tournament was a huge success in the years to come and it has also attracted some of the best cricketers in the country like Mohammad Azharuddin, VB Chandrasekhar, Anil Kumble, Sunil Joshi, Shivlal Yadav, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Venkatesh Prasad and David Johnson.
Such a match was then held in England between four teams – Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire – a 65-overs per side match – called ‘Midlands Knock-out Cup’ in 1962. And just a year later, one saw official matches of this format take shape.
In the first match of the Gillette Cup between Lancashire and Leicestershire, it was the latter who won the toss and elected to field. Each bowler could bowl a maximum of only 15 overs. While we often reminisce the fact that it was Alfred Shaw who bowled the first delivery in Test cricket and Charles Bannerman faced the first-ever ball in the format, in List A matches, it was Brian Booth who faced the first-ever delivery bowled by Terry Spencer. Booth (50) is also the first cricketer to score a fifty, while Pater Marner (121) became the first centurion of the new format.
Lancashire managed to put up a formidable 304 for 9 from 65 overs. In reply, Leicestershire captain and opening batsman Maurice Hallam scored a century in an otherwise poor display from everyone else in the batting department. As a result, his team was eventually bowled out for 203 and lost by 101 runs. Brian Statham, who had already played 67 Tests for England, became the first bowler to pick up a five-wicket haul in List A cricket.
However, it was Sussex who went on to win the competition, beating Worcestershire in the final at Lord’s on September 7, 1963.
• The .Gillette Cup was consequently played every year after that under different names – (C&G Trophy), NatWest Trophy and for a brief period it was also called the ECB Trophy due to the lack of sponsors. From 2010 however, the ECB decided to launch a 40-over competition, ECB 40 in 2010 which went on till 2013 and was replaced by Royal London One-Day Cup, which exists to this day.
• Also, the Gillette Cup was the first step in introducing the format at an international level, which paved way for the first-ever Women’s World Cup in 1973 and the first ever men’s World Cup two years later.
• The success also paved way for the Kerry Packer World Series in 1977, where some of the brightest talents around the world played limited-overs cricket, with coloured clothing – which was then introduced at the international level only in 1992.
• While we have maintained the traditional white clothing for Test cricket, every team dons coloured clothing for limited-over matches.