Friday, July 16, 2010

How I Modernised Cricket

The incredible hype surrounding Australia’s Test Match against Pakistan at Lords this week (largely, I imagine, the result of the continued and rightful selection of prodigious run machine Marcus North) has reminded me of my own role in shaping the modern game of cricket.

While the actions of my old sparring partner Kerry Packer in establishing World Series Cricket to grab the television rights for his Nine Network at the expense of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is the stuff of legend, my involvement in the game's tumult in the late 1970’s is not widely known.

Although it is a notorious fact that I am an authority on the game* many people do not realise that I acted for my close friends Allen Stanford and Ted Turner, who formed a rival consortium, Power Cricket America (PCA), which tried to sign the very same players to play in the “Pan-American Power Cricket League”. This would have given Turner’s CNN global rights to cricket and made me the most powerful man in the game, to the extent I wasn't already.

Unfortunately, Packer’s consortium, recognising the imminent threat of Turner, Stanford and myself, quickly signed almost every high profile international player of the day, including such luminaries as Tony Greig, Clive Lloyd, Greg and Ian Chappell. Packer’s masterstroke was using that dapper, silver-tongued devil Richie Benaud as a recruitment consultant and publicist. This was the beginning of my well publicised feud with Benaud. PCA, on my advice, engaged Steve Randell and Saleem Malik to fulfill a similar role. This ultimately proved a bad decision.

After months of effort and despite my enthusiastic negotiating style, Turner’s PCA consortium was ultimately only able to sign five players: English Journeyman Arnold Sidebottom, teenage Queensland Heartthrob Carl “Big Mocha” Rackemann, little known Sri Lankan tweaker Hettithanthrige Don Kapila Haritha Perera (who was a better player than his modest record of 3 first class matches for Burgher Recreation Club suggests) and two retired Major League Baseballers: relief pitcher Albert Walter "Sparky" Lyle and reliable second-baseman Bernie Allen.

Despite our limited playing stocks, Turner and Stanford would not be dissuaded and funded PCA matches in the USA for the entire 1977 season. The three-on-two matches, while not a commercial success were surprisingly engaging contests. The Rest of the World (Sidebottom, Rackemann and Perera) had an advantage in youthful enthusiasm and cricketing experience while the Americans (Lyle and Allen) were technically limited but absolutely ruthless on anything short (a lesson Mocha refused to learn after he was dispatched over mid-wicket by the powerful Bernie Allen time and time again). For the record, the Rest of the World won the only SuperTest by an innings and 11 runs while the USA won the 50 over series 11-8. Yorkshireman Sidebottom was player of the series and won a magical night with Michael Douglas.

While the role of Power Cricket America is now largely forgotten, many astute critics of the game believe it was the entrepreneurial flair and commercial dynamism I demonstrated in promoting PCA and recruiting a powerful roster that spurred Packer to make One Day Cricket such a powerful force in the game over the last 30 years. It is hard not to agree.

* Based largely on my childhood friendship with Sir Donald and my many critically acclaimed articles on the sport (such as “Age limits in the judiciary but not in cricket commentary: The case against Richard Benaud” C&SLJ 54 2001”)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Law Blogs