The Olympic Games are unquestionably the biggest multinational competition in the world and rightfully called the greatest show on earth. Of late there has been a lot of talk about the inclusion of cricket in the Olympics in order to globalise the game. This very thought of globalising cricket or making it a multilateral game has been there since as early as the 19th century.
It may sound a bit surprising but cricket was supposed to be one of the disciplines in the inaugural modern Olympic Games and it would've been the only team sport held in that edition. By then, only three countries had obtained Test status and owing to insufficient participants, no cricket event was held in 1896.
Four years later in the 1900 Paris Summer Olympics, cricket was included but the number of participating teams was only two- Great Britain and France. Interestingly, the French team consisted mostly of British expatriates.
The English team had players from Devon & Somerset Wanderers Club and some of them were good enough to play first-class cricket.
The side representing Great Britain won the competition despite a great fight from the French side. This was the first and last time cricket was played in the Olympics.
So this was the first attempt, although not at the international level, to arrange a multinational cricket tournament. 1912 was the year when the first multilateral international series took place. All the Test-playing nations at that time- England, Australia and South Africa- took part in the tournament. It was, to this date, the only triangular Test series held in England.
The concept flopped. The summer was wet and the matches had to be played on wet, uncovered pitches. The series couldn't attract the crowd much as well. Because of the failure of the series, no multilateral Test series was arranged until 1999 though the number of teams playing Tests kept on increasing.
The idea of arranging multinational tournaments resurfaced in the early 1960s when a four-team knockout competition called the Midlands Knock-out Cup, as mentioned in the third instalment of the series. One-day cricket grew popular in England with the Gillette Cup (started in 1963) and the Sunday League (started in 1969).
The number of Test-playing nations, by then, had increased to seven. One-day cricket was introduced into international cricket and the success and popularity of the format prompted the ICC to think of a multinational tournament again.
England was the only country at that time that was well-equipped to host a Cricket World Cup and on top of that, they had the experience of hosting multiple one-day tournaments. So the first-ever World Cup was held in 1975, more than sixty years after the first international multilateral series had taken place. South Africa couldn't participate in that tournament as they were banned from international cricket due to apartheid. Sri Lanka and East Africa joined the other six playing nations.
Oh, hang on! The first-ever Cricket World Cup wasn't held in 1975. Women's cricket, as it often does, got the jump on the men's game. The Women's World Cup held in 1973 is the oldest world championship of the game.
The number of global events in cricket is quite a few now but the first Cricket World Cup was definitely one of the most significant events in the history of cricket and contributed massively to the popularisation of the game.