Image Courtesy: ICC
New Delhi: Since its inception in 1975, the ICC World Cup has witnessed several changes. While defending champions Australia are the most successful nation with five titles, India and West Indies have two each, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka one World Cup each.
The first three One-Day International (ODI) World Cups were hosted by England, the inventor of the game. The matches comprised 60 overs per innings, played in the day light in traditional form, with players wearing cricket whites and using red balls.
The first tournament saw eight teams compete for top honours. Apart from the six Test playing nations at the time -- India, Australia, England, New Zealand, Pakistan and the West Indies -- Sri Lanka and a composite team from East Africa also took part.
South Africa were banned from international cricket at that time due to apartheid.
West Indies won the inaugural title, defeating Australia by 17 runs in the final.
Ahead of the 1979 World Cup, the ICC Trophy was introduced to select non-Test playing teams for the tournament, which saw Sri Lanka and Canada qualify.
The West Indies defended their crown, this time defeating hosts England by 92 runs in the final at the iconic Lords.
By the time the 1983 World Cup came around, Sri Lanka had achieved the Test playing nation status. Zimbabwe qualified for the tournament through the ICC Trophy.
The tournament also saw introduction of 30-yard fielding circle from the stumps and required four fielders inside it. It also saw a round-robin format with teams facing each other twice before moving into the knock-outs.
The tournament ended in glory for India, considered to be rank outsiders ahead of the tourney. Led by legendary Kapil Dev, the Indians stunned two-time defending champions and title favourites West Indies by 43 runs in the final.
In 1987, the competition moved out of England to be jointly hosted by India and Pakistan. The matches were reduced from 60 to 50 overs per innings. Australia won the first of their five titles, defeating England by seven runs in the final. It is the closest margin in the history of the World Cup final.
The 1992, World Cup was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The International Cricket Council (ICC) introduced a host of changes, including coloured clothing, white balls, day-night matches and different fielding restrictions.
With the end of the apartheid regime and the international sports boycott, South Africa made their debut at the 1992 World Cup.
Led by Imran Khan and spear-headed by the legendary fast bowling duo -- Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis -- the mercurial Pakistan team endured a difficult start before making a dramatic turnaround to eventually defeat England by 22 runs in the final.
In 1996, the World Cup was held in the Indian subcontinent for a second time, with the inclusion of Sri Lanka as host for some of its group stage matches.
Hosts India were eliminated in controversial circumstances in the semi-finals. The Sri Lankans were cruising to a comfortable victory as India were struggling at 120/8 while chasing a 252-run target. Unhappy at India's performance, the Edens Gardens crowd erupted in protest. The match had to be called off and the Sri Lanka adjudged winners by default.
Sri Lanka went on to win their maiden championship by defeating Australia by seven wickets in the final at Lahore.
England again hosted the World Cup in 1999, which saw 12 teams in action. Some matches were also held in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the Netherlands.
Australia qualified for the semi-finals after reaching their target in Super 6 match against South Africa off the final over of the match. They then proceeded to the final with a tied match in the semi-final also against South Africa where a mix-up between South African batsmen Lance Klusener and Allan Donald saw Donald drop his bat and stranded mid-pitch to be run out.
In the final, Australia bundled out Pakistan for 132 and reached the target in less than 20 overs and with eight wickets in hand.
South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya hosted the 2003 World Cup. The number of teams participating in the event increased to 14.
Kenya surprised critics by reaching the semi-finals, thanks to upset victory over Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, and a match forfeiture by New Zealand who refused to play in the east African nation due to security concerns.
Australia won the title in style by blowing away India's challenge in the final. Batting first, Australia made 359 runs for the loss of two wickets, the largest ever total in a final and defeated India by 125 runs.
West Indies hosted the tournament in 2007, which was expanded to sixteen teams.
The Pakistan team were involved in an unseemly controversy as their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room after an upset loss to World Cup debutant Ireland in a group stage match. The Jamaican police had initially launched a murder investigation into death, but later confirmed that Woolmer died due to heart failure.
Australia completed a hat-trick of World Cup titles by defeating Sri Lanka by 53 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis method in the final. They also extended their undefeated run in the World Cup to 29 matches.
In 2011, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh jointly hosted the World Cup. Pakistan were stripped of their hosting rights following the terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore in 2009, with the games originally scheduled for Pakistan redistributed to the other host countries.
The number of teams participating in the World Cup was reduced to 14. India won their second World Cup title by beating Sri Lanka by six wickets in the final in Mumbai. The men in blue thus became the first country to win the title at home.
The 2015 World Cup was jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand entered their first final by beating South Africa in the semi-finals. Australia took their fifth title by defeating the Kiwis by seven wickets in the final.
The upcoming World Cup will start on May 30 in England and Wales with the final at The Lord's on July 14.