Kerry Packer

By Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Sport and Australian Identity - Bradman Museum

He is known in cricket as the entrepreneur behind World Series Cricket, but for many top players from the 1970s to the 2000s, Australian media magnate Kerry Packer was first and foremost a committed supporter of them and the game they played. 

Kerry Packer (1998) by Brett Faulkner/NewspixBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

A strong case can be made that the late Australian media magnate Kerry Packer was the most influential non-player in the history of Australian cricket.

The former Cricket Australia Chairman Bob Merriman argued that Sir Donald Bradman and Kerry Packer were the ‘...two greatest influences in the last 100 years of Australian cricket’.

Certainly, Kerry Packer through World Series Cricket (WSC) made cricket exciting content for broadcasting, and therefore accelerated the growth of player payments, for which the generations of international cricketers since 1977 are eternally grateful. Beyond that, many of the sport’s most significant advancements had their genesis in the ‘Packer Revolution’, including night cricket, coloured clothing and high-quality television coverage. One-day international cricket wasn’t truly accepted in Australia until Kerry Packer promoted it.

Australian Test Team (1977)Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

It is impossible to underestimate how dissatisfied the stars of the ’70s were with the way the game was being run. Packer, who wanted the rights to telecast cricket on his Nine Network, tapped into this acrimony. Players from across the world, including the equivalent of two Australian teams, quickly signed contracts during the mid-1970s to be part of a venture that would run in direct competition with traditional Test cricket.

Less well remembered is the often virulent media coverage he received during WSC’s early days, but withstood. His venture, the cynics sneered, was a ‘circus’; his players were ‘mercenaries’; he was ‘evil’. But he’d inherited his toughness from his father, the media magnate Sir Frank Packer and enjoyed being able to repay the cricketers who’d backed him with unflinching loyalty and vastly improved salaries.

______________________

Most of the 1977 Australian Test team signed with World Series Cricket, leaving the national side weakened and depleted.

(L- R) Ray Bright, Kerry O’Keefe, Jeff Thomson, Max Walker, Geoff Dymock, Rick McCosker, Rod Marsh (vice-captain), Mick Malone, Greg Chappell (captain), Gary Cosier, Doug Walters, Richie Robinson, Ian Davis, Len Pascoe, David Hookes, Craig Serjeant, Kim Hughes.

The Cricketer Letter to editor (1978-04) by Cricketer Magazine and Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The newspapers and cricket media outlets alike - in both Australia and England - were initially very hostile to Kerry Packer and World Series Cricket in 1977. Yet readers sometimes did react (in support of Kerry Packer's WSC), such as this Letter to the Editor page in The Cricketer magazine 1978.

World Series Cricket and McDonalds (1978/1979) by Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

WSC — featuring teams representing ‘Australia’, the ‘West Indies’ and the ‘Rest of the World’ (World XI) — ran for two seasons, 1977–78 and 1978–79, after which Packer negotiated a settlement with cricket’s old guard that was resoundingly in his favour. In the process, he infused the sport with a spirit of innovation it has never lost.

World Series Cricket was masterful at marketing itself, producing colourful brochures, magazines, player cards, rewards, cushions, caps, badges, it contrasted sharply with a drab and conservative establishment, and won favour with cricket fans.

Cricket Alive Magazine (1978) by World Series Cricket - Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

"Lights On"

One such innovation was Day/Night cricket. On November 28, 1978 a limited-over World Series Cricket encounter between the Australians and the West Indians was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground. This was the ‘rebel’ troupe’s first game — day or night — at the SCG, with WSC previously having staged their Sydney matches at the nearby Showground.

Former Test player and commentator Richie Benaud, one of the principal figures in WSC, described the innovation of night cricket as ‘breathtaking’. Former Test player and journalist Bill O’Reilly said the boisterous atmosphere reminded him of Bodyline. Indeed, this was the night when the tide in Kerry Packer’s ‘cricket war’ turned his way.

World Series Cricket, First White Ball (1978) by Mark Kelly Photography. Bradman Museum Collection and On loan SCG MuseumBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

In November of 2018, the 40th anniversary of the event was commemorated by the Bradman Foundation at it's annual Gala Dinner, at the SCG.

The first white ball was used in WSC for Day/Night cricket at the SCG on 28 November 1978 (West Indies v Australia). It is currently exhibited in the World Series Cricket Gallery at Bradman Museum.

Although controversial at the time, the white ball was developed to be easily seen by players under lights at night matches.

Sydney Cricket Ground Under Lights (1985) by Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The First Night Match Success
November 28, 1978

At the first night game at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), official attendance was announced as 44,377, but the actual number was greater than 50,000, after Packer insisted the SCG officials open the gates so everyone queueing up outside could get in. He later admitted he had been hoping for half that number at best.

The WSC players had been treated as pariahs in some circles for more than year. Now, wrote John Woodcock in the London Times, they were ‘idols’ again. Six months later, the Australian Cricket Board and WSC came together, and a new cricket era began.

Video shows queues of crowds outside the SCG Gates, on the eve of the first night match November 28, 1978.

Imran Khan, World Series Cricket, Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum Collection, 1978/1979, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
Show lessRead more

Pakistani Imran Khan, bowling for the World XI

Ian Chappell & Joel Garner, World Series Cricket, Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum Collection, 1978/1979, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
Show lessRead more

Ian Chappell (Aust) hooks Joel Garner (WI)

Dennis Lillee, World Series Cricket, Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum Collection, 1978/1979, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
Show lessRead more

Dennis Lillee took 67 wickets while playing for WSC Australia XI.

Michael Holding, World Series Cricket, Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum Collection, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
Show lessRead more

Fast bowler for the West Indies, Michael Holding was a devastating asset for his team especially when paired with compatriot Andy Roberts.

Tony Greig Batting, World Series Cricket, Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum Collection, 1978/1979, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
Show lessRead more

After several injuries were sustained by batsmen, players commenced wearing protective helmets. Here, WSC World XI captain Tony Greig plays a cut stroke wearing a motorcycle helmet; one of which was also donned by other batsmen throughout the series.

The adoption of protective headwear by players led to the formal development of the modern cricket helmet.

Viv Richards, World Series Cricket, Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum Collection, 1978/1979, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
Show lessRead more

West Indies' Viv Richards eschewed wearing a helmet and always batted aggressively.

Greg Chappell, World Series Cricket, Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum Collection, 1978/1979, From the collection of: Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame
Show lessRead more

Australia XI's Greg Chappell hooks Michael Holding of the West Indies.

Thanks Mr Packer' World Series Cricket spectators (1978) by Viv Jenkins, Bradman Museum CollectionBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Thanks Mr Packer

On Kerry Packer's death in 2005, cricket administrators once bitter opponents of WSC were quick to laud Packer's enormous contribution to world cricket.

"[Kerry Packer] took the game by the scruff of the neck and dragged it into the modern era," said former International Cricket Council president Ehsan Mani.

"He was for anything that was good for players and to keep the game interesting," his chief commentator, Richie Benaud, explained.

The public always appreciated how Kerry Packer made their sport more enjoyable to watch, both at the ground and on television.

World Series Cricket Gallery, International Hall of Cricket Fame, Bradman Museum (2012) by John GollingsBradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

Today, Kerry Packer's 'World Series Cricket' has a dedicated gallery within the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame. It includes a film with player interviews, and a significant collection of original items...

Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket Bat (1978) by Gray Nicolls. On loan, Packer family and Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd.Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

The extensive WSC collection includes original coloured uniforms worn by the World Series cricket players, the first white night ball, and many cricket helmet prototypes, other artefacts and original publicity material. Even Kerry Packer's own 1977/78 1st season signed bat is displayed. Gifted to him by the players and administrators from World Series Cricket, at the end of the successful series, the bat was kept under lock and key by Kerry Packer until his death.

"You probably don't know how much I'm going to treasure this (bat); it's got to be the world's most expensive cricket bat. I've put $2.9 million into this bat and you guys, and I want to thank every one of you! It will never leave my side." Kerry Packer

This bat has been generously loaned to the Bradman Museum by the Packer family, and is on display in the World Series Cricket Gallery, Bradman Museum. It, along with the gallery, are a tribute of how much Kerry Packer forever changed the game, and for the better.

Credits: Story

Author: Geoff Armstrong. David Wells.
Art Direction: Monica Donoso, Bradman Museum.

© Bradman Museum 2019


Objects:
First White Night Ball. SCG Trust. On Loan, Bradman Museum.
Photography Mark Kelly.
1st Season bat courtesy Packer family and Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd.
Cricketer magazine, April 1978. Bradman Museum Collection
Cricket Alive magazine 1978. Bradman Museum Collection.
1977 Australian Test Team poster. Bradman Museum Collection.

1st Season bat captured by Google ArtCam, 2019.

Image credits:
Kerry Packer. Brett Faulkner/Newspix
WSC Gallery. John Gollings
On field images. Viv Jenkins Collection, Bradman Museum Collection.
1979 photograph, Kerry Packer and WSC Channel Nine Crew. Viv Jenkins Collection, Bradman Museum Collection.

BM 2010.506 / BM 2010.216 / BM 2010.482 / BM 2010.272 / BM 2010.659 / 2010.220 / BM 2010.512 / BM 2010.198 / BM2010.584

Videos:
Dennis Lillee, Tribute to Kerry Packer courtesy Channel Nine Wide World of Sports
Tribute '35 years' courtesy Channel Nine Wide World of Sports
Archive images - 'Lights On' / 'first night match success': Bradman Museum Collection.

Archive footage authorised for use by Bradman Museum for non-commercial gain.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Australia: Great Sporting Land
Explore the unifying spirit of Australian sport - from tales to traditions, larrikins to legends
View theme
Google apps