On 9th May 1977, the official news of World Series Cricket was announced. The players were called pirates as they signed a contract with Australian media owner Kerry Packer, effectively ending their international career and creating pressure on their respective cricket board.
The entire incident started as Kerry Packer wanted to secure the Australian cricket broadcast rights for his Channel Nine network but the Australian Cricket Board management refused to grant access as they wanted to continue the long-standing arrangement with the state broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). When Packer’s all offers were rejected he decided to go ahead with the board and signed around three dozen top players from Australia, England, West Indies, South Africa, and Pakistan to establish a parallel cricketing environment. For Packer, most of the discussions with the players were done by Tony Greig and Ian Chappell, one current and one former international captain. The low pay package of most of the players also helped them to recruit players easily and the entire thing was kept a secret till the official announcement.
The media named it as Packer’s Circus. The authority was enraged but they could not stop the players and even in court, Packer’s lawyers won the legal battle. Packer’s ‘Supertests’ began in December 1977 among WSC Australia XI, WSC World XI, and WSC West Indies XI. The players included Viv Richards, Barry Richards, Dennis Lillee and most of the West Indian and Australian top players. The series also saw inventions like drop-in pitches, color clothing for day-night matches and also matches in non-conventional venues.
The crowd and media support were slow to come but by the second season there were good turnouts and even the board and media also were in support of the players. The matches started to take place in traditional grounds and the first day-night one day match at SCG saw more than 40,000 spectators. Similar turnouts were recorded throughout the entire series and teams even completed a successful tour to the Caribbean.
Finally, Australian Cricket board had to give in as they faced huge losses and by June 1979 an agreement was made where Channel Nine was given the exclusive right to broadcast cricket in Australia. Not only that, it agreed that Packer’s company would also work to popularize the game. At that point, the ICC and England boards were not very happy but finally, things were settled.
It changed cricket overall and especially one day cricket as we know it today.