The Packer timeline

World Series Cricket - April to May 1977

David Frith
A timeline of events in World Series Cricket

April 1977

The news breaks ... © Cricinfo
April 24 South Africa's Sunday Times breaks the news that four South African cricketers have 'signed lucrative contracts to play an eight-week series of matches throughout the world'. The four are named as Barry Richards, Eddie Barlow, Mike Procter, and Graeme Pollock during a speech by Lee Irvine at the Balfour Park cricket dinner in Johannesburg. Irvine had received a presentation to mark his retirement from first-class cricket. He said: "When the team visits South Africa and plays local teams it will have immeasurable benefits for the game here." Some leading firms in South Africa were believed to have guaranteed R500,000 sponsorship for the matches.

May 1977

May 11 The May 14 edition of The Bulletin, Australia's 97-year-old magazine with a national circulation, now owned by Australian Consolidated Press Ltd (chairman Kerry Packer), announces the completion of a 'huge sporting deal' in which 35 top cricketers have been signed for three years to play specially arranged matches, beginning with a series of six five-day 'Test matches', six one-day games, and six three-day round-robin tournaments in Australia next season. Prize money would be $100,000. The deal had been put together by JP Sports and Television Corporation Ltd, proprietors of Channel Nine in Sydney and Melbourne. JP Sports is run by John Cornell and Austin Robertson, both originally from Perth, the latter formerly a top Australian Rules footballer. They have promoted sporting events and packaged TV sports programmes, and manage, among others, Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and David Hookes. They also arranged Australian advertising contracts for Tony Greig, golfer Graham Marsh, and tennis player John Newcombe. Cornell and Robertson were approached by several leading Australian cricketers to assist them in increasing their earnings. The Bulletin stated that no Australian Test cricketer can expect an income of more than $25,000 at the zenith of his career. "Most receive less than half that," wrote Trevor Kennedy, the paper's managing editor.

"The financial arrangements made with the cricketers for the professional series are still secret," Kennedy went on. "Individual contracts have been signed with each player. As well as fees they will receive a share of the gate."

"We have been very fair," says Cornell. "The alacrity with which the scheme has been received by the players will attest to that."

The 35 signed up, 18 Australians and 17 from overseas, chosen by Ian Chappell and Tony Greig, were: I. M. Chappell (capt), R. J. Bright, G. S. Chappell, I. C. Davis, R. Edwards, G. J. Gilmour, D. W. Hookes, D. K. Lillee, M. F. Malone, R. W. Marsh, R. B. McCosker, K. J. O'Keeffe, L. S. Pascoe, I. R. Redpath, R. D. Robinson, J. R. Thomson, M. H. N. Walker, K. D. Walters. A. W. Greig (captain), Asif Iqbal, E. J. Barlow, D. L. Hobson, M. A. Holding, Imran Khan, A. P. E. Knott, C. H. Lloyd, Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammad, R. G. Pollock, M. J. Procter, B. A. Richards, I. V. A. Richards, A. M. E. Roberts, J. A. Snow, D. L. Underwood.

Geoff Boycott was invited to take part in the scheme, but declined. Richie Benaud and his sports consultancy company have been engaged to assist in the management of the series. Many of the signings were carried out during the Centenary Test match in Melbourne and the New Zealand-Australia series. Robertson and John Kitto (secretary and in-house attorney of the Television Corporation group) then flew to Trinidad, where West Indies were playing Pakistan. Robertson then went on to Jamaica to negotiate with M. A. Holding. From there he proceeded to Britain to complete arrangements with English and South African players.

In an effort to demonstrate the incentive that money could be, Cornell had offered Lillee $50 for every run he could make over 20 in the Auckland Test match. He made 23 not out. Then, with only 40 minutes left before Cornell had to leave the ground to catch an aircraft, he offered $200 for every wicket Lillee took in that time. He took four.

John Maley, the QCA's groundsman at Brisbane, is engaged to prepare pitches at grounds available for the Packer series. If the Woolloongabba Test ground was not available, no matches would be played in Queensland.

Details of transmission followed: eight cameras would be used, as against the usual four; an Iso-camera for instant close-up replays would be incorporated; "The rules for the series will be identical to other Test series except that bumpers will be allowed against the tailenders." Further: "The contracts with the players ensure that discipline will be maintained. The agreements can be nullified by bad behaviour or serious misdemeanours." All the players were to engage in "extensive coaching sessions with younger players".

On May 7 a letter outlining the scheme was sent from Television Corporation Ltd to the Australian Cricket Board. "There will be varying reactions because this is a revolutionary idea," said Cornell. "But because publicity for cricket will be boosted to a tremendous extent we expect the reaction to be good."

Meanwhile, Kerry Packer stated in Sydney on May 9 that the Australian Board would be solely responsible if the 18 Australians were banned from international cricket for taking part in his $7.6 million venture. "These players will be available to play Test, Sheffield Shield and club cricket when they are not required for the Super Tests," Mr Packer said. "We would like to fit in with the Australian Cricket Board and juggle playing dates."

A. R. Barnes, the ACB secretary, said that none of the 13 players currently touring England would be recalled as they have contracts with the Board. G. J. Cosier, G. Dymock, K. J. Hughes and C. S. Serjeant were the four tourists not signed with Television Corporation Ltd.

Tony Greig puts on a brave face for the media at Hove © Cricinfo
May 13 The Cricket Council issued a statement at the end of an emergency meeting to the effect that Tony Greig was not to be considered as England's captain in the forthcoming series against Australia. "His action", the statement read in part, in reference to Greig's involvement with the 'pirate' series, "has inevitably impaired the trust which existed between the cricket authorises and the captain of the England side."

Freddie Brown, chairman of the Council, added: "The captaincy of the England team involves close liaison with the selectors in the management, selection and development of England players for the future and clearly Tony Greig is unlikely to be able to do this as his stated intention is to be contracted elsewhere during the next three winters."

Greig commented: "Obviously I am disappointed that my reign as England captain has come to an end just as we were beginning to put things together. From a personal point of view, the only redeeming factor is that I have sacrificed cricket's most coveted job for a cause which I believe could be in the best interests of cricket the world over.

"I should like to place on record how I cherish the truly magnificent support I have been lucky enough to enjoy from the players who have played under me for England. If I am selected to play for England again I will give my all to whoever the new captain may be and to the team."

In a radio interview Greig said, "I gave a lot of thought to telling Lord's after signing the contract. But you mustn't forget the show was on the road by then."

May 15 The South African Cricket Association states that it will follow the line taken by ICC members even if it means outlawing the five South African players signed up by Kerry Packer.

May 17 Jack Bannister, secretary of the Cricketers' Association, says : "As yet I have neither seen, heard, nor read anything which convinces me that the proposed deal can have any beneficial effect on players' financial conditions in this country."

May 20 Kerry Packer, in an interview shown on ITV, says that the suggestion he might sign up a dozen more players - perhaps the whole of the England team - sounded "not a bad idea". He continues : "The world's best will be playing here [in Australia] next November through February, and the public will want to watch them."

May 21 It is reported that Asif Iqbal has been cleared by his employers, the, National Bank of Pakistan, to play in the Packer series in Australia.

May 25 It is announced from Lord's that a special meeting of full and foundation members of the ICC will be held at Lord's on June 14 "to discuss the situation resulting from a declared intention to stage an unofficial series" during 1977-78. The discussions were expected to pave the way for decisions to be taken at the scheduled ICC meeting on July 26-27.

May 26 The TCCB informs the selection committee to pick England's sides for the Prudential Trophy series and the first three Tests strictly on merit. The way is thus opened for the selection of Greig, Knott, and Underwood.

May 28 Kerry Packer arrives in London, and watches play in the Sussex-Gloucestershire match at Hove the following day.

May 29 Greig, Knott, and Underwood are chosen in England's party of 14 for the three Prudential Trophy matches against Australia.