Scotland Wales Northern Ireland

You are in: Cricket  
Front Page
The Ashes
Rugby Union
Rugby League
Other Sports
Sports Talk
In Depth
Photo Galleries
TV & Radio
BBC Pundits
Question of Sport
Funny Old Game

Around The Uk

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC News

BBC Weather

Friday, 10 May, 2002, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Packer's foot soldiers
Eddie Barlow bowls to West Indian Clive Lloyd
Barlow captained the Cavaliers against the world's best
test hello test
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport Online

World Series Cricket is best remembered as a blaze of floodlights and a flash of coloured clothing.

Those signing big-money contracts knew that they would be up against the finest players in the world in every match that they played.

But there was a less glamorous side to Kerry Packer's plan to revolutionise cricket, and it involved taking the game to every corner of Australia.

You were never playing anything but international cricket
Bob Woolmer
While two of the three teams - Australia, West Indies and the World XI - played in the major cities, the spare side visited a rural outpost.

Communities as diverse as Currumdin in north Queensland; Morwell, Victoria and Wagga Wagga, New South Wales found some of the world's finest in town for the first time.

And making up the numbers in the second year of the competition was a Cavaliers XI, a side containing the spare players from the other three and captained by South African Eddie Barlow.

Last-minute calls

Those who would have been stars had they remained in Test cricket, such as England fast bowler John Snow, Pakistani spinner Mushtaq Mohammad and Australia's Kerry O'Keeffe were regulars.

And others, like English batsman Bob Woolmer, were often called from duty with the star sides to make up the numbers.

To face bowling up-country, knowing Wisden was never going to record it, frustrated me enormously
Kerry O'Keeffe
Woolmer recalls a 5am flight to Queensland outpost Rockhampton (population 50,000) the day after he had acted as 12th man for the World XI in a Supertest against Australia.

"I arrived at the ground and Eddie said, 'Put your pads on, you're next in," Woolmer says.

"I'd only just done that and a wicket fell; I almost literally went from the plane to the pitch, I didn't have time to think about it."

Despite his mind being elsewhere, Woolmer hit 60, but the Cavaliers lost, as they did in all but five of their 23 matches.

For some, the whole experience was demoralising.

"To face bowling up-country, knowing Wisden was never going to record it, frustrated me enormously," wrote O'Keeffe.

But Woolmer found playing for Packer, at whatever level, rewarding.

"You were never playing anything but international cricket," he says.

"It may have been in the bush but the West Indies would still have an attack of Holding, Roberts, Croft and Garner.

"It was the toughest cricket I've ever played."


When they weren't playing, there were coaching trips to local clubs to undertake, promotional visits to restaurants and media interviews.

They may not have been the major money-spinners, but the Cavaliers had a full management team, press liaison and even someone on hand to look after the players' wives.

Bob Woolmer in action for England
Woolmer's form suffered on his return to England
"We were treated like businessmen," says Woolmer. "It was a real lesson in looking after people."

Woolmer was joined the management team himself after three games of the 1978/79 season, when his hand was broken by Michael Holding on what he describes as a "corrugated wicket" at Gladstone.

And the incident highlighted a problem with pitch quality, not only in up-country games but also at the highest level, when Test grounds were not always made available.

Woolmer is in no doubt that his game improved after two years with the rebel series.

But the psychological scars of returning to county cricket and dealing with opposition from administrators and team-mates dealt a blow to his confidence.

"I learnt a hell of a lot from it, but the problem was that I had a terrible conscience," he says.

"It took until 1982 before I felt that I was coming back to my best."

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Cricket stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Cricket stories

^^ Back to top