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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK
Forged under pressure
Two things coincided in 1977: the advent of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket and the arrival of Colin Croft and Joel Garner as Test cricketers.
There were already rumours that some rich Australian was willing to pay zillions for the best cricketers in the world to promote his television ambitions.
And the visit of two of his executives to the players' enclosures in Barbados enhanced the possibilities.
By the end of the five-Test series against Pakistan in April 1977, both Joel and I had done well enough to confirm that we could be around for a while.
We were even contracted to play county cricket, he for Somerset and I for Lancashire.
Every West Indian player plying his trade in the UK that year either called or visited Clive Lloyd's home, where I was staying, to see if he could be included in the planned super team.
I was disappointed to find out that one of only two people who had played in the final Test who had not been asked to visit Australia late in 1977.
The other was Alvin Kallicharran, who pulled out having initially accepted an offer.
I was never asked. The first season of World Series Cricket was just a fantasy for me.
It is my understanding that Larry Gomes, who had played for the West Indies in England in 1976, was also approached.
But to this day he has never given a straight answer to my questions, despite being a close friend.
The following year an official West Indies side, still captained by Lloyd, decimated Bobby Simpson's under-strength Australians in the first two Tests in the Caribbean.
The best Australian players had already been banned by the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) at the end of 1977 for their participation in WSC.
And the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) did likewise before the third Test in Guyana.
By then Desmond Haynes, who made his Test debut in that series, myself and Richard Austin had also joined WSC for the 1978/79 Australian season.
My own recruitment was probably the most traumatic thing I had experienced up to then.
I knew when we beat Australia in Barbados in three days that the Packer scouts had come to recruit us.
The first year had proved a success for Packer cricket, despite the ACB's effort to thwart them, because Channel 9 had brought a new vision to the sport.
But Clyde Walcott, someone for whom I have always had great respect, suggested that signing anything with WSC would curtail our cricket in "proper" West Indian colours.
That was real agony for me, a simple little country boy, struggling with the thought that I could not play for the West Indies again.
The fees offered by WSC were much better than we had been paid while playing Test cricket, considering that I only made US$600 for the entire five-Test series against Pakistan.
But the overwhelming thought was simple; whether it would it all last long enough for all of us to make not just a living, but a killing.
As it turned out, that did not happen, but it ended up well for all.
The cricket played in WSC, in my first trip away from the Caribbean, was the toughest that I have ever encountered.
We were suffering so many injuries that a trainer was recruited, and Dennis Waight became legendary in West Indies cricket.
In one three week period, we played 18 one-day games around the countryside of Queensland and Victoria, so keen was Channel 9 to propagate the cricket everywhere.
Our fitness became first-rate that season, better than any team in history, and it showed in our efforts in the SuperTests.
In the meantime, the "real" West Indies team had been selected to go to India, captained by Kallicharran, including Gomes and with a certain Malcolm Marshall making his debut.
We were lucky that the West Indies lost the series in India, so the home public was not in a great mood at the start of 1979, when WSC toured the Caribbean.
That tour in itself, with Australia and the West Indies drawing the SuperTests 1-1, was a masterstroke for the Packer people.
By the time it was completed, with at least two riots along the way, the WICB were convinced that they could not send the Kallicharran team to defend the World Cup in 1979.
They sent the proper team, and the rest is history - a winning team from 1979 to 1995, with interchanging personnel.
Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket was the genesis of Clive Lloyd's all-conquering team, using all of the elements of natural athleticism with the attitude of professionalism.
West Indies cricket, in particular, should be very grateful for this.
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