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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
Growing up with Packer
Justin Langer in the nets
World Series Cricket fuelled Langer's dreams
test hello test
By Justin Langer
Australian Test batsman

Controversial as it was at the time, Kerry Packer's vision provided the blue-print for the entertaining game of one-day cricket, as we know it today.

Growing up as a cricket-loving youngster in Perth, Western Australia, the innovation of World Series cricket added a new dimension to the backyard Test matches that dominated every waking moment in the Langer household.

The colours, the lights and the chance to see some of the great players in action was a magnet for my growing love affair with the game.

My uncle Robbie played World Series Cricket, which in itself added to the joy of this new game. His involvement meant cricket became more than something we could watch on the television.

We had an insider in the ranks, which provided more fuel for my blossoming ambitions to follow in his footsteps.

Although I was only a young boy at the time, my young mind stored away clear memories of the World Series days.

Viv Richards practising with the West Indies team
King Viv had no equal as a batsman

Funnily enough most of these memories are centred on the man who probably best epitomised the spirit and freedom of one-day cricket.

The great Sir Vivian Richards was like a demi-God to me and there are two images in particular that encapsulate the incomparable Antiguan genius.

One is a photograph on the front cover of a board game called World Series Cricket. Surprisingly, the majestic Richards was playing a forward defensive shot under the big lights of one of the main stadiums in Australia.

Dressed in his blood-red clothes, sweat dripping off his brow, he was watching the ball like a hawk eyes its prey. His left leg was stretched a long way forward, his bat was perfectly straight and his muscles were bulging through his sweat-drenched clothes.

Cricket genius

The lights in the background made the image more spectacular as this beautiful figure of balance, composure and concentration beamed off the cardboard cover and into our living rooms at home.

The second image came through information shared with us from Robbie.

I will never forget him talking to my dad and telling him about his first meeting with Viv Richards. The description is still so clear in my mind.

Rob told us how he had walked into the opposition changing rooms at the end of one of the games and saw Viv sitting in the corner with his shirt off. He described the size of the man and in particular the muscular build of an awesome athlete.

Justin Langer in one-day action
Packer introduced the idea of coloured kit

The more Rob described the world's best batsman the more I built up a gladiatorial image of my hero.

I figured that if I was to become an international cricket star in the future I would have to build myself up to become a giant figure like Rob had described. Hence my love of physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle today.

There is no doubt in my mind that World Series Cricket left an indelible mark on my desire to play international cricket, perhaps it was the first seed planted in my heart and mind that initiated the dream to be a cricket star.

The first bat I ever owned was a World Series cricket bat. Dad cut the handle down so that the bat wasn't too big for me to use.

With your first kiss, you never forget the girl. I will never forget my first cricket bat and I will never forget World Series Cricket.

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