WORLD SERIES CRICKET
After a failed 1976 attempt to buy exclusive broadcasting rights to international cricket in Australia for his Nine Network, Kerry Packer was to sponsor an alternative that split the game worldwide: a professional troupe comprising the best players from Australia, the West Indies, South Africa, England and Pakistan participating in televised spectacular one- and five-day games.
Cricket was enjoying special popularity in Australia, thanks to the Test success of charismatic teams led by Ian then Greg Chappell, and featuring such star players as Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Doug Walters. When secretly approached by Packer’s agents, John Cornell and Austin Robertson, these players and others signed up out of disaffection with the conservative Australian Cricket Board; England’s South Africa-born captain Tony Greig was another recruit.
Plans for World Series Cricket (WSC) in May 1977 caused indignation in established cricket circles. Both compromise negotiations and an attempt to ban players, which Packer fought in London’s High Court, failed.
When the first ‘Supertest’ between a WSC Australian XI and a WSC West Indian XI began at Melbourne’s VFL Park on 2 December 1977, interest was desultory. Packer’s only significant success that summer was with night cricket.
The next season, crowds and ratings improved significantly, stimulated by Mojo’s ‘C’mon Aussie C’mon’ advertising campaign, and access to the floodlit Sydney Cricket Ground. Test matches now looked dowdy by comparison, especially with Australia’s team shorn of its top players.
With the Australian Cricket Board in acute financial straits, Packer acquired not only the broadcasting rights he had sought—which Nine still holds—but the right to market and promote Australian cricket, which Nine retained for 15 years. Traditional cricket adopted many innovations popularised by WSC, including night cricket, coloured clothing, drop-in pitches and batting helmets. But Packer was to benefit hugely from his entrepreneurial zeal: in many respects, WSC made his reputation as a media proprietor.
REF: G. Haigh, The Cricket War (1993).