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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Controversial, but so exciting
The West Indians didn't like their shocking pink gear
The West Indians didn't like their shocking pink gear
test hello test
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC Cricket Correspondent
line

I was 18 years old, having just played my first season of county cricket, and I was in Australia on a Whitbread scholarship when Packer was going on.

The fact is I was utterly gripped by it - not least by all the new innovations.

The coverage on TV was so good. There were close-ups, everyone looked bigger.

It was supposed to be controversial and was. The players were encouraged to have a bit of a go at each other, and they did.

It wasn't quite WWF stuff but it felt like it in a way. I went out to a ground called VFL Park in Melbourne to watch West Indies against Australia.

Viv Richards got a ticking off from Packer
Viv Richards got a ticking off from Packer

The whole atmosphere was extremely exciting.

It was as though the players were slightly naughty boys but they were doing something they really believed in.

I've spoken to a lot of people who played World Series Cricket, and they said it was some of the hardest cricket they ever played.

I remember Andy Roberts telling me that Packer came into the dressing room. Their heads were drooping and he came in and gave them a roasting.

He told people like Viv Richards to get out on the pitch again, buck their ideas up or they'd get on the next plane to the Caribbean and wouldn't be paid.

The poor West Indians were wearing pink clothes, which they didn't like much and it probably didn't help their cause!

There were a lot of great all-rounders on show and some big egos.

Of course South Africa's Barry Richards played. It was his only opportunity to play at that level and it was the highlight of his playing career.

Harsh reaction

The press reaction was generally very anti-Packer. Jim Swanton, the doyen of cricket writers, went to his grave detesting Packer and everything he stood for but 25 years on I wonder how I would reacted.

The Packer revolution effectively grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and threatened to destroy it.

But as a cricketer who was able to play Test cricket after Packer had revolutionised pay structures and contracts I owe a lot to the few who joined the World Series circus.

Ian Chappell wasn't short of a word or two
Ian Chappell wasn't short of a word or two

The players needed it, the broadcasters needed it and the spectators needed it.

People might describe it as a necessary evil, but I think Packer was not really an evil at all. It was something that needed to be done.

The only bad thing to come out of it was that the behaviour of the players was diabolical.

Ian Chappell's Australians really whipped it up, but it was ratings-driven theatre.

I remember Garth Le Roux and Imran Khan, two huge all-rounders, swearing and cursing at each other.

And it was the first time pitch microphones were used, so you could hear all these expletives at 8pm in the evening.

I would argue that it's a weakness of the game that the sledging that started during World Series hasn't been drummed out.

But there were certainly more positives than negatives for the game after Kerry Packer's World Series finally rolled out of town.

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

 

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