History of Cricket

World Series Cricket

Following the excitement and interest of the Centenary Test in March, 1977, the cricket world was about to be shaken to it foundations and changed forever. And it took a person outside the cricketing establishment to do it.

Recruitment: 1977

At the time of the Centenary Test in early 1977, cricketers were earning sums of money that required them to maintain jobs outside the game. Compared to the revenue generated by gate fees and media rights, the players were receiving a pittance while the administrators were becoming wealthy. But none of the players had an inkling of what could be done about the situation.

Tony Greig, who had captained England in the Centenary Test, planned to retire to a life in Australia following his cricket career. He thought it might be prudent to make some contacts within the Australian media world to see if he could arrange an exclusive deal for a post-cricket career in the media. To this end, he sought out Mr Kerry Packer, who owned Australia's Channel 9 television network as well as several newspapers and magazines.

Packer had recently offered the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) a bid of A$1.5 million for broadcast rights to Australian Test and first class cricket matches, an offer the ACB had turned down in favour of maintaining coverage on the publicly owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). In the face of this rejection, Packer hatched a plan, and coincidentally the first step involved speaking to Tony Greig.

So the pair met in Packer's Sydney mansion. Before Greig could explain what he wanted, Packer said he had a proposal to make, if Greig would swear to secrecy. Greig did, and Packer proceeded to explain in detail his plan.

Packer planned to start his own international cricket competition, completely outside the auspices of the International Cricket Council. He would gather the best players in the world by offering them salaries well above what they were receiving by playing for their countries, paid for out of gate receipts and the money he would make by broadcasting the matches on his network. The offered salaries would be enough for the players to live on and set them up for a comfortable retirement.

The offer was too good to refuse. Packer wanted Greig to help him by recruiting more players. Being the English captain at the time didn't hurt. Packer had already signed Ian Chappell, the former Australian captain, to lead an Australian team, and wanted Greig to lead a combined World XI team to take them on.

Before leaving Australia, Greig spoke to his team mates John Snow, Allan Knott, and Derek Underwood and told them to meet him back in London at the Churchill Hotel, where he would discuss "something big" with them. Greig then flew to Port-of-Spain in Trinidad, where the West Indies were about to begin the fourth Test of a series against visiting Pakistan. Packer wanted a full team of the flamboyant and skilled West Indians to form a third side to go up against his Australian and the World XI teams. Armed witb a 45-minute video recorded by former Australian captain Ian Chappell to convince them of the feasability of Packer's plan, Greig signed up eight of the poorly paid West Indian stars within two days. Up to that time, the West Indians were the worst paid players in international cricket.

West Indian legends Viv Richards, Andy Roberts, and captain Clive Lloyd quickly joined the Packer movement, accepting a total contract of A$90,000 each for three years. Michael Holding accepted too, but only after insising on the addition of a clause that would void the contract if Jamaica's Prime Minister objected to him sharing a dressing room with a South African. Greig then proceeded to get agreements from Pakistan's Imran Khan, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, and captain Mushtaq Mohammad.

Greig returned to England for the arranged meeting with Snow, Knott, and Underwood. Also joining them were South African players Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Mike Procter, Eddie Barlow, and Denys Hobson, still stifled under the ICC ban on South Africa. All of them signed up.

The Battle: 1978

The Peace Deal: 1979

In 1979 the ICC ruled that matches conducted by World Series Cricket would not be classified as first class. No WSC matches are considered as official matches for the purposes of statistics relating to Tests, one-day internationals, or first class records.

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