Packer the pioneer with enduring legacy of pyjama game that woke the world

The Australian media mogul who revolutionised cricket died this week. Paul Newman examines his lasting influence

John Snow remembers one of his early conversations with Kerry Packer. The Australian media and gambling mogul, who died this week at his Sydney home at the age of 68, had shaken cricket's authorities to the core by recruiting the world's best players to play World Series Cricket in 1977.

Snow was enlisted by his England captain, Tony Greig, along with Alan Knott, Derek Underwood and Dennis Amiss to play for a World XI. "KP turned up when we first landed on Australian soil," Snow remembered yesterday. "He said to us: 'You're getting paid well for this and I expect you to take it seriously. If you want to bugger about you can get back on the plane'.

"It was a hard-nosed business from his point of view and his attitude was adopted by the cricketers. We were being paid a fair whack and we were happy to give it everything we could. Everything was very serious, very professional. And as a result there was some fantastic cricket played."

For someone who never played first-class cricket, Packer's influence on the game has been extraordinary. He pioneered night cricket (with a white ball) and coloured clothing. His encouragement of one-day cricket transformed the limited-overs game. Thanks in large part to Packer, who paid handsomely, leading players around the world today are well rewarded for their efforts and central contracts can be seen as a clear consequence of World Series Cricket.

Above all, he brought a businesslike approach to both the playing and the commercial side of the game. Modern-day television contracts, like Sky's new £220m four-year agreement with English cricket, dwarf those that were the subject of Packer's anger when he launched his rival series. In 1976 the Australian Cricket Board signed away its rights at 69,000 Australian dollars a year (about £29,000) to the Australian Broadcasting Commission; in a sign of things to come, Packer had been prepared to pay A$500,000 (£210,000).

World Series Cricket came about because of Packer's business frustrations and the dissatisfaction of players, especially in Australia. Money was a particular source of unhappiness: Dennis Lillee once calculated that he made around A$30 (£12.50) a day, after tax and expenses, for playing Test cricket.

English players felt poorly rewarded and taken for granted. "I could have got more money being a dustman going down the Marylebone Road than I did playing cricket," Snow said. "I remember when we had to play an extra Test match in 1970-71 in Melbourne and we talked about refusing to play. Donald Bradman had come into our dressing-room and thanked us for agreeing to it. We said: 'What extra game?' I think they'd agreed to pay the umpires before anybody mentioned anything to us.

"I'd been fighting the authorities for a long time. I remember being punished for wearing advertising for cricket equipment at a televised county game. I'd been saying for years that cricket should capitalise on advertising opportunities to bring in more money, but the powers-that-be insisted they wouldn't allow it."

Packer was made aware of the Australian players' anger by John Cornell, a former journalist who worked as a producer for Packer's TV station, Channel Nine. Advised by Richie Benaud, Packer set about enlisting, in total secrecy, the world's best players for a Test and one-day series. The first recruits were 28 Australians, led by the Chappell brothers and including all the country's best players, followed by 18 West Indians and 22 players for a Rest of the World team.

Greig signed up, became the recruiting officer for the English contingent and was sacked as national captain. The International Cricket Conference banned the Packer players from appearing in matches under its jurisdiction, but the High Court in London ruled that no single body could have a monopoly on the game.

World Series Cricket was launched in Australia in the winter of 1977-78 and was an instant success, with large crowds watching some thrilling sport. The crowds loved the night matches and the colour of "pyjama cricket". A Test at Perth between WSC Australia and Greig's World XI typified the play: the World XI were 433 for 1 at the end of the first day and made 625, Barry Richards scoring 207, Viv Richards 177 and Gordon Greenidge 140. Greg Chappell hit 174, but the Australians lost by an innings and 73 runs.

Snow recalls the professionalism of the players. "There were greater demands in terms of fitness and preparation," he said. "Practice was always taken very seriously and we had set training patterns. It was the start of much greater physical demands on cricketers. Previously fitness was something that was left to you as an individual."

Packer and the authorities made peace after two years. Most players rejoined their national teams and Packer secured his broadcasting rights. The game, however, had changed for good and, despite the original bitterness, there is now almost universal agreement that Packer was a good influence. Ehsan Mani, president of the ICC, said yesterday: "He possessed a great knowledge, understanding and love of the game. He always watched cricket with a view to taking the sport forward, he was always full of ideas, and his is an incredible legacy to the game."

Greig, hailing Packer's changes, said: "The most important thing was night cricket. That got cricket to a wider audience. The second most important thing is that cricketers are paid what they should be paid. Every cricketer would be grateful, I am sure, for the involvement of World Series Cricket, because it got them a better deal.

"He also improved cricket on television beyond recognition, with the greatest respect to the BBC and others. He just took it to another level."

Snow concluded: "Kerry Packer took a stick of dynamite and threw it in the Long Room. When the pieces came back down everything was in a different shape - but cricket was better for it."

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker