The Packer Affair
The English resistance. Botham, Willis, Brearley: None joined Packer
By Oliver Brett BBC Sport Online
In the winter of 1978-79, tensions were high as 300 players turned up at the Cricketers' Association AGM at Edgbaston.
Tony Greig led the case for Packer, and had Dennis Amiss on board.
The England team, led by Geoff Boycott and Bob Willis, vehemently led the case for the established game.
But according to Jack Bannister, who was secretary of the Association at the time, Willis got "within a tiny step" of signing with Packer. "In the end he went to his county Warwickshire, something which Amiss and Alvin Kallicharran had failed to do.
The Packer people kept on nibbling at our blokes.
Doug Insole Former TCCB chairman "Warwickshire came up with a package that guaranteed Willis that if injuries cropped up he would be looked after." "It wasn't just a big salary he was after."
The player most coveted by Packer was Boycott himself, and the Yorkshireman has never really explained why he never joined the circus.
Doug Insole was chairman of the Test and County Cricket Board, and freely admits that he knew nothing about Packer's plans until the first batch of players had been signed.
But when four England players suddenly joined the World Series, he knew he had to act fast.
He explains: "On the 1978-79 tour of Australia that I managed and Mike Brearley skippered, the players were made very substantial offers but they didn't take them up.
Boycott is secretive about his reasons "The TCCB were not making any inducements initially whatsoever."
Subsequently, Insole did offer longer-term contracts to various players, and a small increase in pay.
"Derek Randall and Ian Botham were certainly a couple of players to give England the option of their services for two to three years.
"There's no doubt that after Packer, cricketers were better off, but in any case the whole game was taking off after a dicey period in the early 1970s.
"There was a certain acknowledgment that a subsequent increase in remunerations was necessary."
But Insole is in no doubt of the main reason as to why the likes of Brearley and Boycott were against the Packer circus.
"It was very, very substantially loyalty to the English game and I have to say it was very heartening, particularly after the Packer people kept on nibbling at our blokes.
"The knowledge that there would be a likely ban afterwards played a part I suspect, but as it happened once the High Court judgement was passed there never was a ban."
Bannister had been caught in an unenviable position when the Packer circus first came rolling into town.
He knew that the World Series was poles apart from the way the TCCB handled the game in England.
And yet he felt duty-bound to re-assure the England players who had signed with Packer that they could rely on being provided with legal support by the Association if necessary.
Alvin Kallicharran was aided by Bannister and co
The West Indian Kallicharran had - for example - rashly signed a contract with Packer without realising the full implications. "When he realised he had been misled, the Association provided funds for him to examine his legal position," recalls Bannister.
"Packer agreed to cancel his contract under great protest."
As it happened, the TCCB lost its case in the High Court to Packer so none of the half-dozen England players who became involved in the World Series ever required legal assistance.
But the counties had already reached an unofficial agreement with each other that they would only employ Packer players if they were available to play for England all year round.
Insole may insist that loyalty to English cricket was the main reason so few English players signed with Packer.
But players must have known they needed to rely on their counties once their international days were numbered.
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