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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Amiss walked tightrope
Warwickshire chief executive Dennis Amiss
Involvement with Packer almost cost Amiss dear
Thrasy Petropoulos

From 17-year-old Championship debutant to 59-year-old chief executive, Dennis Amiss has lived and breathed Warwickshire County Cricket Club.

But for a few turbulent months during 1978, it looked as though that association had come to a bitter and acrimonious end.

The previous summer, Amiss had signed up for Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket and though he returned from Australia to score more than 2,000 first-class runs for his county, Warwickshire announced late in the season that they would not be renewing his contract.

The county's famously vocal supporters were up in arms.

Where Kent, who had just won the Championship, and Hampshire had seen no conflict of interest in retaining the likes of Alan Knott, Derek Underwood and Gordon Greenidge, Warwickshire were willing to dispense with a batsman who had just completed his 13th successive season of more than 1,000 first-class runs.

The club, for their part, were alone among counties to stand up for what was widely perceived as potentially the most damaging episode in world cricket.

Amiss hooks a short ball at The Oval (1976)
Making a double century against West Indies

Crisis loomed when a Special General Meeting was called at Warwickshire for 26 September but, unexpectedly, the meeting was called off at Amiss's request.

With the Cricketers' Association acting as mediators, it was agreed that if Packer and the ICC were able to thrash out an understanding that winter, then Warwickshire and Amiss might be able reconcile their differences.

That they did suited both parties: Amiss continued his association with Warwickshire, and Warwickshire retained a batsman who continued his unbroken run of reaching 1,000 runs in a season to 1987, a total of 23 years.

Unsurprisingly, Amiss's memories of the event are of "difficult times".

"There were several people on the committee here and at Lord's who felt more strongly than most, which I suppose is why the reaction at Warwickshire was more extreme than at Kent or Hampshire," he said.

"But it could have been much worse. Jack Bannister and the Cricketers' Association was part of a group which put it to them that they should wait for the outcome of Packer's talks with the ICC that winter."


We didn't feel that we were doing anything wrong at the time
Dennis Amiss

If truth be known, Amiss, who had been added to Packer's list in a second wave of recruitment, had taken offence that he was not in the original list of 35 players chosen.

"I had pretty much decided that if I was offered the chance to go I would take it," he said. "I was finally asked after scoring a one-day international at the Oval.

"The call came through that Kerry Packer wished to see me at the Dorchester where he asked me if I wished to join.

"I had played 50-odd Tests for England but had been omitted shortly before and was feeling pretty disillusioned.

"It was an exciting offer."

The pay was "considerably more" than playing for England and the biggest names in the game - Viv Richards, Graeme Pollock, Michael Holding and Dennis Lillee among them - would be there.

Amiss prepares for a World Series Cricket match
Amiss warms up watched by Gary Sobers

Amiss was unable to repeat his recent success for Warwickshire during the first winter of World Series Cricket. All the same, he remembers it as a thoroughly enjoyable experience despite the controversies.

"I played for the B Team against Australia B, travelling up and down the country, playing under floodlights and with coloured clothing and a white ball.

"There was definitely a lot of good that came out of it. The curator was using drop-in pitches, 20 years ahead of his time.

"People often ask me whether I'd make the same decision now."

To which the answer is?

"Knowing what I know now... I would have thought twice."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Warks chief executive Dennis Amiss
"Warwickshire took a strong stance"
BBC Sport Online marks the 25th anniversary of the Kerry Packer saga

How it began

Cricket visionary

England divided

Sporting circus

Looking back

Family connection

VIDEO

SUPERTEST STATS

PHOTO GALLERY

SPORTS TALK
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