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World Series Cricket

World Series Cricket was a professional cricket competition of the late 1970s set up by Kerry Packer in opposition to the "official" international competition. The dramatic changes it brought to the game, for good and ill, continue to reverberate today.

The series had its genesis through a combination of two main factors--the fact that players were not paid sufficient amounts to make a living from cricket, and that Packer wished to secure the exclusive broadcasting rights to Australian cricket. After the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) refused, Packer set up his own series, clandestinely signing agreements with both Australian and foreign players, most notably including England captain Tony Grieg.

Shut out of traditional cricket venues, games were organised at Australian Rules football venues like Waverley Park and various showgrounds, using "drop-in" pitches. The first WSC game, a "Supertest" featuring an Australian eleven versus the rest of the world, began at VFL Park on December 2 1977. The standard of the cricket was excellent, but at first the public did not pay it great attention. The "official" test series, playing in Brisbane at the time and featuring a considerably worse Australian team led by an aging Bob Simpson, attracted far more spectators. However, when WSC one-day matches began, featuring matches under lights, players wearing coloured clothing, and a white ball, crowds arrived in droves and Packer's experiment began to succeed.

After two seasons of WSC, a deal was signed between the ACB and Packer, with the Nine Network getting broadcasting rights to Australian cricket, the players becoming paid professionals, and the introduction of a regular one-day international series featuring the innovations of WSC.

WSC changed the game in many, many ways. It brought instant replays, a wider variety of camera angles, but most notable was the placement of a camera at each end of the pitch so no matter what end the bowler was running in from, the batsman's shot was always visible - an innovation of Packer himself who insisted he did not want to see "batsmen's bums". Night matches have become very common in most nations, and one-day cricket has become the most widely followed form of the game. Players are full-time professionals, and at least in the larger cricketing nations are very well-paid, mainly through television rights; broadcasters now have a huge say in the running of the game.

However, the traditional form of the game, Test cricket, is still played around the world. Kerry Packer described his involvement in World Series Cricket as "half-philanthropic". Perhaps if another entrepreneur had been the one to fully commercialise cricket, more of the game's traditions may have been consigned to the scrapheap.