When The Cricket War was first published in 1993, the cover featured a black-and-white image of an early press conference of World Series Cricket. Nearest the camera was the Australian captain Ian Chappell, seventies sartorial sensibilities evoked by his moustache, sideburns and chunky collar; furthest was WSC’s impresario Kerry Packer, slightly beyond the focal range and in profile but hulkingly unmistakable. It was an image about news, about confrontation, and about WSC’s alignment of cricketers with the values of commerce. (cont. below)
For The Cricket War’s first UK publication all these years later, we looked at a variety of alternatives, accenting our search to action and colour. Yet the instant I saw this photograph of the West Indian fast bowler Wayne Daniel walking nonchalantly back to his mark, I fell for it. Daniel was not, perhaps, one of the stars of WSC – although I do remember him doing an advertisement for McDonald’s with the Australian Len Pascoe where it looked like they were both struggling not to break into fits of laughter. His most memorable moment of the two years was not bowling but hitting a match-winning six, which forty years later you can still find on YouTube. Yet in some ways he is the more flavoursome as a character, in the same way as a lone Tommy is more evocative of the Western Front than any field-marshal. Here Daniel exudes the athleticism that was WSC’s stock in trade, and even in repose the machismo – so much of it that the clanking bling, faraway look and husky torso bursting from his wide open V-neck offset, overwhelm and subsume the pinkness of his shirt.
There is a story behind the story too. The West Indians blanched at the coral pink shirts that Packer told them to wear, first showcased a game at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 17 January 1979. But what the boss said went – that was the essence of working for a dynamic solo entrepreneur. And so coloured uniforms – as yet crude, and dyed a single colour, but maybe the more dramatic for it – entered into the collective consciousness, lighting up televisions only recently gone colour in Australia. Of all the cricketers on show in WSC, of course, it was the West Indians who were most enriched, turned from gifted part-timers into full-time professionals, preluding a dynasty still in progress when I commenced working on The Cricket War twenty-five years ago. Perhaps their fate since then, drifting to the margins of international cricket as the T20 revolution sweeps aside all in its path, introduces another element to this image – the idea, seldom fully grasped, that nothing lasts forever, even the irrevocable.
Gideon Haigh. June 2017