Almanac Cricket: Summers of Twin Delights 1977-1979

 

 

They were summers of twin delights. Two international series in one, following the announcement that Kerry Packer, in a failed bid to win exclusive TV rights, had signed the cream of Australian cricket to play in a private competition.

 

During 1977/78, Australia took on the visiting Indian side under the banner of the Australian Cricket Board. At the same time, World Series Cricket, a three-way competition between Australia, The West Indies and a World X1, was run and controlled by Packer.  Initially, cricket fans sided with the establishment team. However, many watched both series (at least on television –  unless you were in regional Australia, where you could only access the traditional game).

 

Many years later, I wondered how the establishment players reflected on their experience as part of the ‘second eleven’ Australian side. What happened to David Ogilvie,  Gary Cosier, Geoff Dymock, Wayne Clark, Peter Toohey, Ian Callen etc?  How did they cope with the temporary fame and consider this time in their lives?  I decided to track down former players to tell their stories. The writing never came easy, but I began a narrative detailing the five-Test series and World Cup which the Australians played in.

 

While reporters recorded contemporary accounts in newspapers and tour books, little of the establishment players’ stories had been deeply explored. Gideon Haigh wrote about World Series Cricket in The Cricket War almost two decades after the event. Christian Ryan’s  2009 Golden Boy, a biography of Kim Hughes, also provided details of the era and its players. David Battersby penned In the Shadow of Packer, covering England’s tours of Pakistan and  New Zealand. Still, the tale of the Australians who played Test cricket during this period lay largely unexamined.

 

The more I researched and interviewed the more I realised how the establishment players had helped keep Test cricket alive. It’s hard to believe now, but one businessman’s ‘takeover’ of the game in Australia threatened the fabric of cricket in Australia.

 

While Packer broadly applied a more progressive approach to player management, the Board’s fretful administrators kept doing what they always had (ignoring the needs of their main assets) while a weakened Australia took on full-strength opposition sides.

 

Happily, most former players were generous and expansive with their time and willing to talk about their experiences. It felt to me as if they really wanted to tell their stories.

 

It’s all a long time ago now. More than half a century has passed since these tumultuous times. For comparison, Sir Donald Bradman debuted for Australia fifty years before the Cricket Revolution. Despite this, the long-haired, moustached, cricketing heroes of the 1970s  seem forever young. But this may be an older man reflecting on his teenage years and the two summers that brought so much joy and fascination to his life as it did to many others.

 

Kerry Packer eventually won the Cricket War, but the role of the establishment players is worth acknowledging. Perhaps it’s time that Cricket Australia did.

 

The Establishment Boys has just been published in the UK.

 

Summary of the book below:

 

The Establishment Boys

 

Set during Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution, this book tells the story of the Australian Test cricketers plucked from the backwaters of the domestic game to take on full-strength international sides.

 

Some became cricketing greats. Others were lost in the footnotes of history. But all have important stories to share.

 

From 1977/78 to the reconciliation, two Australian sides competed in parallel universes: World Series Cricket’s glamorous rock star realm and the attritional reality of Test cricket fought by predominantly younger, poorly paid men honouring the baggy green. Friendships were broken, and new bonds formed, as the public first sided with the traditional game before backing World Series Cricket in more significant numbers. Kerry Packer eventually won the cricketing war. However, Test cricket survived because of those who carried the Australian banner for the game. These players became known as the ‘Establishment Boys’, and until now, they have barely been acknowledged.

 

Further information and purchase details of the book are HERE.

 

 

 First Test at Brisbane and the second Test at Perth:

 

 

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Comments

  1. I can’t wait to read this book.

    I often think about players like David Ogilvie and Peter Toohey to this day. I remember Peter Toohey playing some great Test innings during 1977-79.

    Of course, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the 2nd 11 Australian Test side during this period, as Allan Border was starting to make a name for himself as a very good Test batsman. I enjoyed watching Bob Simpson make a comeback to Test cricket around this time and he made a big Test century against India.

    Athough this Australian Test 11 were lambs to the slaughter against England during this period, Graham Yallop and Rodney Hogg were a few shining lights for that team.

    Great to hear the commentary again of the Test highlights on You Tube from Norman May and Frank Tyson, from 45 years ago.

  2. Good on you Barry, like Anon I’m looking forward to a read of this.

    Scary thinking how long ago this was. The series against India was wonderful, leading 2-0, then 2-2, with a victory in the decider giving us a 3-2 win. In the Caribbean a WSC oriented split in the home side saved us a 5-0 drubbing; we still lost the series. The opening over of the Ashes in 1978-79 saw Gary Cosier run out with the score on 2: a portender for a long summer.The 1979 World Cup in England, followed by a gritty 2-0 defeat touring India, then the WSC players returned.

    Sam Gannon, Tony Mayne,Wayne Porter,Paul Hibbert, players whose names nowadays you’d only hear in trivia nights. Craig Sergeant, Gary Cosier, Alan Hurst, all wore the ‘baggy green’ prior and during these tumultuous summers, though not again. Others like Geoff Dymock, Graham Yallop, still played in the ‘baggy green’ after the reunification.

    I could go on, and on, but enough of me. I look forward to the book.

    Glen!

  3. Really looking forward to reading this, Barry.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I read this a couple of years ago Barry – glad to see that this is getting to a wider audience.

    It is chock full of memories and observations from a perspective that was brushed aside after the reconciliation.

  5. Tony Taylor says

    I’m in for this book. I absolutely love the 77-78 and 78-79 series. Incidentally, people don’t realise how close the Ashes were, despite the 1-5 result. A plum LB to Randall in Sydney was not out but if it was given it would have most likely been 2-2 instead of 1-3.

  6. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Good stuff Bazz – Will it be on sale at Dillons ? Thank you

  7. Thanks Anon, Glen, Smokie, Swish, Tony and Malcolm- not sure if at Dillons but will enquire.
    I’m heading to the UK later this year to do some book talks on the subject so it is indeed an exciting time!

  8. Thank you Barry
    If my memory is not failing I recall the kamikaze running of the Test openers Rick Darling and Graham Wood.
    Graham Yallop’s book of that era was ‘Lambs to the Slaughter’.
    Bobby Simpson also played a big role.
    I also can’t forget Steve Rixon, the wicket keeper, who came from my home town Albury.

  9. Is this an update or same as the previous version Barry.
    It’s a very good read.

    Mention previously would make for great cricket documentaries similar to 30 for 30 style.

  10. Barry Nicholls says

    Thanks John all feature prominently.

    Cheers Rodney revised and added to to original+ yes would make a good doco- there are so many themes that could be explored.

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