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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
Packer's recruiting officer
Of all the players that Kerry Packer wanted to sign for World Series Cricket, Tony Greig was perhaps the most important.
To secure the England captain would obviously be a major coup in his attempts to take on the established cricket world.
Furthermore, Greig had the strength of character and personality to stand up to the Test and County Cricket Board and promote his breakaway tournament.
Ironically, it was Greig who sought out Packer in the aftermath of the Centenary Test, in March 1977, to discuss an unrelated matter.
Keen to establish links in Australia, where he intended to live at the end of his playing career, Greig had decided to seek an exclusive deal with a media organisation.
But no sooner had he contacted representatives from Packer's media empire than he was told that Packer had in any case wanted a word with him.
It was in this way that Greig found himself at Packer's Bellevue mansion in Sydney.
"I started to talk," Greig remembers, "but he told me that before I went any further he had something to ask me.
"He was completely open from the start, explaining what he was doing, and more importantly why he was doing it, and the role he wanted me to play."
By stripping countries of their Test stars and staging his own international tournament, Packer was getting his own back on the Australian Cricket Board who had knocked back a lucrative offer for exclusive television rights by his company.
"Before he said anything he swore me to secrecy, which wasn't easy," Greig continued. "I asked how I could make such a promise when I had no idea what he was about to say.
"Eventually I agreed. When he told me his plans, I said that I needed time to think it over. He said I would have to make my decision fairly quickly, in the next couple of days. I went away, thought about it and agreed."
So began the extraordinary tale of defection by leading international cricketers.
Over the coming weeks, Greig personally oversaw the recruitment of the World XI team that he was to captain.
John Snow, Greig's Sussex team-mate, and Kent's Alan Knott and Derek Underwood were both told to meet at London's Churchill hotel where "something big" would be discussed.
And with the help of representatives from JP Sport, the company Packer had assigned to orchestrate the project, and a 45-minute video from Ian Chappell, the Australia XI captain, attesting the legitimacy of the offer, Greig flew to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, where Pakistan and West Indies were about to start a Test match.
"I signed eight players in two days," Greig recalls, "And I can tell you that it wasn't difficult. My problem was who to leave out."
Despite worldwide recognition for their talents, West Indians were, above all others, the most poorly paid cricketers.
County contracts would compensate to an extent, but English seasons were often long and arduous.
In no time, Viv Richards and Andy Roberts were signed up, and Clive Lloyd accepted the offer of Aus $90,000 (£35,500) over three years after consulting his wife, Waveney.
As Lloyd put it: "Here was a opportunity to earn and invest the kind of money that would allow me to be confident of my future."
Among the Pakistanis, Imran Khan, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal and captain Mushtaq Mohammad were not long in joining.
The trickiest recruit proved to be the 23-year-old Michael Holding.
Holding eventually agreed after insisting that a clause be added to his contract that it was void if Prime Minister Michael Manley objected to him possibly sharing a dressing-room with South Africans.
Back at the Churchill hotel, Snow, Underwood and Knott were joined by South Africans Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Mike Procter, Eddie Barlow and Denys Hobson, all eager to sign.
Even before the introductory speech had ended, Barlow was heard to ask: "Where do I sign?".
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