CA to recognise World Series Cricket records
World Series Cricket's revered place in the history of the game and dressing room lore of its combatants is belatedly going to be backed up by official recognition of the players' achievements in the Super Tests and One Day Cup matches.
To coincide with the day-night Test to be played in Adelaide from Friday, Cricket Australia's board of directors have approved the inclusion of WSC statistics in the official playing records of Australian participants, including Ian and Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Len Pascoe. CA is also in discussions with other member boards to do likewise for the players signed from the West Indies, England, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand.
In addition to its enormous push towards the full professionalisation of the game, Kerry Packer's breakaway competition also fast-tracked countless innovations during its two seasons, in 1977-78 and 1978-79. These included greatly enhanced television coverage, drop-in pitches and coloured clothing, but also night cricket, including floodlit "Super Tests" in the second season, an early forerunner of the match to be played at Adelaide Oval this week.
"I think it has got to be recognised, for the quality of cricket it was and for what it has done for cricket," former Australia captain and WSC batsman Greg Chappell said. "The importance of it in the history of the game [means] it has got to be recognised. It's a separate entry but it's got to be there, it can't be hidden away in the dark."
James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, said the recognition of WSC was well overdue. "World Series Cricket was clearly some of the most competitive, high-performing international cricket ever played," he said. "Given the quality of the competition, players from that era regarded strong performances in WSC as career highlights.
"Such was the impact that WSC had on the game, it has been unjust that records from that competition haven't been formally recognised. So leading into this first day-night Test where we are thinking about the players who pioneered cricket under lights, we proposed adjusting our own statistical records to include performances from WSC.
"Going forward, players from that era will have a standalone line-item in their career statistics recognising their efforts in WSC. Our board has now supported this proposal and we will have discussions with other cricket nations and the ICC in an effort to have them adopt the same position."
The competition, which began as Packer's attempt to muscle into the world of cricket television rights and then bloomed into something far larger than first imagined, has been depicted in literature (The Cricket War) and on television (Kerry Packer's War), but had previously been ignored by official records. The new category will not incorporate the matches into Test or first-class statistics, but instead let them stand alone.
"I've heard people talk about when they're involved in historical moments they're not aware of it. I was very aware of it through the whole lot," Chappell said. "It felt like it was a historical period, it was exciting, it was some of the best cricket I played, albeit on some of the worst cricket grounds i played on in that first year.
"But the quality of the cricket and the quality of the commitment on both sides. Kerry had no idea what was coming when he signed up for it, he was hoping to sign the players and then go talk to the board and get an agreement, then all of a sudden he's got to run a cricket season.
"We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but all I knew was it had to happen. Cricket needed this jolt to drag it into the 20th century, and it certainly did that. I think most of what happened during that time was very positive, but it was a very exciting time to be around. The stuff that was going on around the cricket. Prior to that you'd just pick two teams, let's put them at the MCG and that's the promotion, whereas all this other stuff was going on around us, it was exciting.
"It was an exciting era in Australia, apart from the cricket a lot was going on like the Vietnam War, the Dismissal and so on, all of a sudden people were questioning everything and we were questioning everything. We were a reflection of what was going on in society, not leading the charge. But it was just an amazing period, and we felt like we were doing something that was going to make a difference."
Barry Richards, who faced the first ball bowled under lights from Pascoe in a televised match at Waverley Park in Melbourne, described his thoughts at that moment. They will likely be mirrored when the night session of the Adelaide Test commences after dark on Friday, with the pink ball ushering in a new degree of difficulty for players but also a potentially larger audience for a more accessible game.
"For a start the light wasn't great so it was apprehension," Richards said. "You don't know what to expect, you go out there thinking let's just try to get over the first 20 minutes and see what happens, because it was all quite new. the dusk period wasn't great. Apprehension and survival were the things going through my mind - even if you do get out, make it look normal."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig