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WSC – The first cricket revolution

This article was posted on Monday, May 6, 2013

I treasure the black and white photograph I had taken with Sir Donald Bradman at his house in Adelaide many years back.

My favourite uncle, Charlie, had an old-fashioned vinyl record called “Our Don Bradman”. In a sense, Charlie introduced me to Bradman … who he was and what he had achieved … hence the massive following.

The Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame at Bowral houses one of the finest cricket collections in the world … a must visit if you are a cricket ‘nutter’ or maybe just a fan.

The audio/visual interactivity of the museum is compelling. Be prepared to immerse your mind in nostalgia for hours … images, words and objects of cricket royalty … priceless … especially when linked with our own individual memories and personal stories.

We were gathered in Bowral to attend a function to recognize Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution of 1977-78. A unique, tumultuous period in the game. Kerry Packer and his players (the best in the world) were persona non-grata in the eyes of the cricket establishment. The 69 WSC players, including yours truly, at the time were banned for life for their involvement.

So much emotion, potentially shredding the heritage and future of the greatest game of all. The advent of WSC challenged and forever changed cricket for the better. You may disagree.

Many books and now films have cast a magnifying glass over this period and the fascinating characters involved. For more detail, I urge you to read them … many probably only available on eBay and in libraries. WSC revolutionized how the game was played and brought thousands of new fans to the sport.

After a tour of The Bradman Museum, many with glass in hand … the dining room swelled to capacity. In attendance, Ros and Gretel Packer, Tony Grieg’s wife Vivian and young son, Tom … So, too, son Mark Greig from his first marriage. Richie Benaud, who was the original consultant to WSC, was there with his wife Daphne. Players, Doug Walters, Rick McCosker, Len Pascoe, Ian Davis … Dennis Yagmich (the second wicketkeeper), who I had not seen since those years, and who despite only playing a handful of games also made the journey from Perth. Australian Team Manager, Geoff Forsaith. The surviving half of the legendary MoJo duo that penned “C’mon Aussie C’mon”, Allan Johnston, was another attendee. Forgive me if I’ve missed out other important figures.

Many press, TV and media outlets were represented.

What we experienced was a chance to revisit those extra-ordinary times. Michael Clarke, the current Australian Test captain talked of the period and its legacy and the role past players can have in the contemporary game.

Friend, Mike Coward, has done an outstanding job in collecting, so far, 140-plus interviews with the significant players globally. In time, this passionate investment in building both the oral and visual history of WSC and international cricket will be irreplaceable. At the end of official proceedings, we sat down together for an hour-long chat … TV camera over his right shoulder – red light on.

As a matter of interest, Mike co-authored the book ‘Wit of Walker’ with me.

To be able to chat at length, not in sound bytes of 15-20 seconds, was a wonderfully indulgent luxury given today’s hyper-fast pace of life. It was memorable to expand stories into sub-plots and characters … events as they actually happened. What a privilege to walk events across a bridge from yesteryear!!

During the official lunch, Mike eloquently outlined this unique period of cricket. Richie Benaud, Doug Walters and I participated in a panel discussion. Then questions from the floor. One memorable question was from a teenager … “But what if the venture failed”? It was one I chose to answer. Maybe I’ll share my response another time … or simply watch the television drama – Kerry Packer’s Wars. Richie didn’t hear the question but said he liked the answer – very Ritchie!

Vivian Greig spoke on behalf of Tony (a consultant to The Bradman Museum). Tony had such a massive input and impact on the success of WSC. She relayed his thoughts on several subjects, especially the future of the game, with a beautiful empathy. The game of cricket owes a great deal to A.W. Grieg. The game will miss him, but his footprint and legacy will be large. He was a mate and a mighty opponent on the field.

Photographs, stories, autographs and interviews followed. I am so pleased to have been part of a significant days play. It was a huge step in acknowledging many of the games toughest battles, given the pedigree of WSC players. Maybe in the future, runs scored and wickets taken will be added to official Test and first class player records … A big question.

To the incredibly committed team at The Bradman Museum

  • Maurice Newman – Chairman
  • Karen Mewes – Events Manager
  • Rina Hore – Director
  • Cindy Pryma – Graphics and Visuals
  • David Wells – Curator
  • Mike Wise – Operations Manager
  • and the sensational Bradman support team … I admire your efforts and wish you good luck.

It will be my pleasure to help in any small way I can to expand the message of what is available at Bowral and the great, yet still evolving, game of cricket.

A special ‘thank you’ to photographer Viv Jenkins’ widow, Jan Johnson, who donated in excess of 1,000 transparencies of Viv’s creative flair captured during his stint as official WSC photographer.  Worth seeing for yourself when you visit the venue.

Finally, to Kerry Packer … what an extra-ordinary Australian.  Courage, Commitment, Innovation and dollars created a groundbreaking revolution.   The 20/20 version of the game, such as IPL, is an extension of Mr Packer’s vision.  The game of cricket says: “a big thank you”.  And, yes, I would do it all again.

For a little extra on WSC, A game-changing time in Australian sport is remembered. – A piece in The Sydney Morning Herald – February 10, 2013 Daniel Lane