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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 14:56 GMT
Jonathan Agnew column
Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

The 25th anniversary of Kerry Packer's World Series cricket was marked by a series of special features on the BBC Sport website in 2002.

One of them, written by Jonathan Agnew, is reproduced here following Packer's death at the age of 68.

Viv Richards and Dennis Lillee
World Series was some of the hardest cricket ever played

I was 18 years old, having just played my first season of county cricket, and 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 wrestling 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. The atmosphere was extremely exciting and the players 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 West Indies fast bowler Andy Roberts telling me that Packer once 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 be 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 players on show and some big egos.

The press reaction was generally very anti-Packer.

Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket
Australia's Ian Chappell loses his off stump during a Super Test

Jim Swanton, the doyen of cricket writers, went to his grave detesting Packer and everything he stood for but I wonder how I would reacted now.

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.

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 the game needed.

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 and it was the first time pitch microphones were used, so you could hear all these expletives at 8.00pm 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.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Media magnate Kerry Packer dies


Interview: Former England captain Tony Greig


Interview: Former umpire Dickie Bird



SEE ALSO
Obituary: Kerry Packer
27 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Cricket leads tributes to Packer
27 Dec 05 |  Cricket
Media magnate Kerry Packer dies
27 Dec 05 |  Business


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