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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 11:11 GMT
Cricket revolution
By Paresh Soni
BBC Sport

Kerry Packer never played cricket seriously but few people have made a bigger impact on the game.

Earlier this year, the entrepreneur and Sir Don Bradman were named as Australian cricket's most influential men of the past 100 years.

A day after his death in Sydney, BBC Sport examines how the media magnate helped transform the sport and the fortunes of its players by launching his own World Series competition.


Kerry Packer
Packer created one of the biggest storms to hit cricket

Packer's father Frank reportedly gambled a 10 shilling note he found on the street to earn his passage from Tasmania to the mainland, where he built their media empire.

Kerry inherited that penchant for waging bets, famously squandering more than 13m in three days in Las Vegas - but he usually won.

Packer never played first-class cricket but started taking a keen interest in the sport's revenue earning potential in the 1970s.


In 1977 Packer offered what he thought was a lucrative AUS $1.5m to the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) for rights to cover Test matches and domestic cricket on his Channel Nine network.

The board turned him down and agreed a deal with rival broadcaster ABC for significantly less money.

Packer - who was not given the opportunity to negotiate - was left fuming and announced that he would set up his own competition which would be TV-led.


Tony Greig was a key figure for Packer
Greig played a key role

After the ACB snub, Packer sought the advice of former Australia captain Richie Benaud about running his own competition, which would be called World Series Cricket.

Although Test cricket would still feature, he felt limited overs games - which had previously only been played domestically in England - were the way ahead.

Packer knew that television ratings were highest in the evening and was convinced day-night matches would capture them and new viewers around the world.


Three teams were involved in 15 so-called Super Tests - Australia, West Indies and a World XI - while the 49 one-day matches also featured another team of Australians and a Cavaliers XI made up of players who could not get into the main teams.

Many one-day games were played under floodlights with a white ball used and coloured clothing worn - giving birth to the term "Pyjama Cricket".

Apart from making money, there was a social aspect to WSC, with matches taken to outposts around Australia to give more people an opportunity to see top-class sporting action.

With traditional venues like Melbourne's MCG and Brisbane's Gabba out of the question, games often took place at football venues.


Packer's first task was to persuade then England captain Tony Greig to recruit some of the biggest names in the sport.

Dennis Lillee was a big-name supporter of the competition
Lillee's signing was a coup

South African-born Greig was looking for a way to move to Australia after his playing career ended and the businessman's offer was too good to resist.

The all-rounder hosted a meeting at a London hotel which led to legends like West Indians Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Michael Holding, and Pakistanis Imran Khan, Majid Khan and Mushtaq Mohammad signing up.

England were not as badly hit by the rebellion but six established Test players - Greig, John Snow, Dennis Amiss, Derek Underwood, Alan Knott and Bob Woolmer - played for Packer.

The Australia team contained household names like Greg and Ian Chappell and Dennis Lillee, regarded then as the premier fast bowler in the world.


Cricketers earned nowhere near what today's players pick up - salaries were paltry and off-field endorsements were rare.

Unlike now, cricket boards around the world did not offer long-term central contracts, so financial security was lacking.

A number of leading internationals had become disillusioned and Packer's money provided a tempting antidote.

For the South Africans, who had been in international isolation because of apartheid, it was a welcome opportunity to pit themselves against high-quality opposition on a regular basis.

However, plenty chose not to take up the big sums being offered because they feared the repercussions: counties said they would only employ Packer players if they were available to play for England all year.


Much of the media in England and Australia was hostile and words like "traitors" and "circus" were frequently used to describe the players and Packer's revolution.

Eddie Barlow bowls to Clive Lloyd
Big names like Barlow and Lloyd featured in the Tests

The ECB's forerunner, the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB), was unaware of what Packer had been plotting and was taken by surprise.

It reacted angrily: Greig lost the England captaincy and, along with the game's world governing body, then called the International Cricket Conference, warned players they would be banned if they took part.

That ruling was overturned in the courts but the TCCB averted an exodus of players by offering longer-term contracts with only slight increases in pay.


Despite the eye-catching names on display, the quality of fare on offer was not always the highest.

However, there were some superb performances from both the Richards (Viv and Barry), the Chappells, and Lillee as the World XI and the Windies beat Australia 2-1 in the first season of Tests.

The World XI also triumphed in the one-dayers, with 20,000 watching the final.

The second season featured day-night Tests and again the Aussies failed to win either series, the world XI victorious by a 3-1 margin and the Windies earning a 1-1 draw.

But the biggest winner was Packer, who had shown the cricketing authorities he could go it alone and make it work.


The World Series Cricket rebellion lasted only 17 months, ending with a compromise between Packer and the authorities.

The Grand Final of the Super Series between Australia and the World XI in Sydney
The SCG had a big crowd for the Australia-World XI Test finale

Packer had his TV rights, cricket was transformed into a professional game and the way was paved for players and administrators to pick up the riches they do today.

Some participants paid the ultimate price in terms of international careers, and were never forgiven by their countries.

But their sacrifice and Packer's gambling instinct have made an indelible impact on the sport and left a lasting legacy.

Obituary: Media magnate Kerry Packer

Interview: Former England captain Tony Greig

Interview: Former umpire Dickie Bird

Cricket leads tributes to Packer
27 Dec 05 |  Cricket
Media magnate Kerry Packer dies
27 Dec 05 |  Business
Bradman/Packer influence praised
06 May 05 |  Australia


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