Kerry Packer’s cricket revolution changed the way the game was played forever
Ian Chappell – The Sunday Telegraph – August 20, 2012

West Indies captain Clive Lloyd with Kerry Packer at the height of World Series Cricket. Source: The Daily Telegraph

Ian Chappell at the Packer troupe practice. Source: Supplied

PLAYERS wore coloured pyjamas, innings were over in a flash and the whole country was singing ‘C’mon Aussie, c’mon’. Welcome to World Series Cricket, a revolution that changed the way the gentleman’s game played forever.

AT our first meeting, Kerry Packer asked me who I wanted in the World Series Cricket team.

When I replied I was no longer the Australian captain, he quickly established the ground rules for his breakaway group of cricketers.
“What do you think this is, a bloody democracy?” he exploded. “I pay the bills, I pick the captain. You’re the adjectival captain.”

Although it was our first meeting, it wasn’t the opening exchange in his Park St office.

Rather than the usual “Hello”, Kerry’s initial greeting was, “What are you, some sort of adjectival cowboy?”

This was a reference to an over-dependence on denim in my dress sense. If most of the scenes in tonight’s telemovie Howzat! are depicted verbatim, then the bleep operator will be working overtime.

There are two other things I remember about our first meeting. In response to his query about who I wanted in the team, I said the obvious name missing from the list was off-spinner Ashley Mallett.
“I’m not paying that bloody straight breaker,” Kerry exploded.

In the end we reached a rare compromise; I asked Kerry if he would contract Mallett if the off-spinner dismissed him inside one over.

He reluctantly agreed, but spoke to his secretary and asked her to book him an indoor net so he could practise his batting.

Packer eventually signed Mallett, but he never faced his bowling.

“What do you think this is, a bloody democracy?” he exploded. “I pay the bills, I pick the captain. You’re the adjectival captain.”

Kerry was an extremely competitive individual and a proud man. He took great pride in his television network and demanded a high standard of work.

He told me at that first meeting: “The Yanks came out here to see our (Channel 9) coverage of the Australian Open golf tournament.

For the first time anywhere, we covered all 18 holes and they went back home and started doing the same. I want other television companies to copy our coverage of the cricket.”

HE got his wish. I worked on a couple of Ashes series with the BBC, and their director Keith McKenzie told me how he visited Australia during the summer and took back home ideas he’d gleaned from the Nine coverage.

Kerry loved sport, but he was passionate about cricket and rugby league.

Kerry Packer watching World Series cricket at Waverley Park. Source: Supplied

He used to love talking about sport, and he was never short of a theory on how a game could be improved.
“Australia should pick 11 batsman (in the one day international side),” he once told me. “They can easily find five or six batsmen who can bowl, and they’ll make so many runs they’ll rarely be beaten.”

“Who’s going to keep?” I asked. “Somebody like (Allan) Border can do that,” he contended.

“But he’s the best batsman,” I argued, “and he’ll probably break a finger.” This animated discussion, like a number of others we had, was never resolved.

I discovered two things about Kerry.

Kerry Packer

Australian media magnate Kerry Packer talks to the press outside Lords Cricket Ground in London in 1977. Source: Supplied

He never said, “You’re right”, and if you received a phone call from him, it was never to say, “Well done”.

Unlike the previous telemovie (Paper Giants) featuring Packer and Ita Buttrose telling the story of how Cleo magazine evolved, Howzat! will feature many more strong characters. Knowing many of the characters involved in WSC so well (some of them far too well), I’m doubtful the actors will be able to capture their personalities the way I perceived them.

Another problem will be the cricket. The standard of play during WSC was the highest I ever experienced; three of the most fiery bowling attacks ever gathered in one place meant there was very little peace, even though some of the best batsmen of that time were on display.

I’m not sure actors will be able to capture the intensity and skill of those contests. And then there was the electric atmosphere of the first day/night game at a traditional cricket ground.

The SCG crowd had swelled so quickly that in the dinner break Kerry and some of his staff manned the gates and let the public in so that they didn’t miss any play.

Dennis Lillee

Dennis Lillee batting during a World Series cricket match in 1979. Source: Supplied

As we walked on to the ground for the afternoon session, the crowd was singing Come on Aussie, Come on and Rodney Marsh said to me: “We’re back.”

That was the moment the players felt like they’d been accepted as THE Australian team. It was also the moment the WSC staff saw a reward for their hard work.

From that revolution came day/night cricket, much improved television coverage and more skilful marketing of the game and the players.

These are just a few of the more important improvements that came as a direct result of the stand the players took in the late ’70s.

Contact Us

A: 13-15 Little Burton St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
P: +61 2 9332 9111
E: office@thefordhamcompany.com.au

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top