Joel Garner © Getty Images
Joel Garner © Getty Images

On January 9, 1979, Joel Garner became absolutely livid in a World Series Cricket match at VFL Park, Melbourne. Abhishek Mukherjee explains why.

Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket was revolutionary in more ways than one — so much so that we tend to ignore the supreme quality of cricket that was on display during the tournament. It is a pity that the tournament never got Test status, unlike the Super Series of 2005 between Australia and ICC World XI. Had that happened, some records would have been entirely rewritten.

Seldom has cricket witnessed such an assortment of fast bowlers. Think of the names: Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Len Pascoe, and Wayne Prior for Australia; Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, and Wayne Daniel for West Indies; and Eddie Barlow, Mike Procter, Clive Rice, Garth le Roux, and Imran Khan for World XI.

It was a terrifying proposition for the batsmen. And on that day, there was a tinge of grass on the drop-in pitch at VFL Park, Melbourne. “The wicket was one of reliable bounce but of prodigious seam,” observed the scorer in his comments.

Both teams packed their sides with pacemen of the highest quality. The World XI were shot out for 102. Of the five fast bowlers, only Roberts got a solitary wicket while Holding, Garner, Bernard Julien, and Collis King got two apiece. But then, Roberts had smashed Majid Khan’s cheekbone, forcing him to retire — so the booty was shared equally. Majid was later operated at Dandenong Hospital.

But it was never going to be easy, with le Roux and Imran tearing down. With the score on 9, Imran removed Gordon Greenidge, Viv Richards, and Jim Allen in the space of 6 balls without conceding a run. Rice, Procter, and le Roux all contributed, but at 39 for 7 the innings was really going nowhere.

King and Roberts added 28 in 41 balls before Procter got King for 20. It was the highest individual score of the match and the only two-digit score for the West Indians. Rice got Roberts at the other end. Garner joined Daniel.

Earlier in the day, Garner had tormented the World XI batsmen, bouncing at them relentlessly from that ten-foot-high point. They were now willing to give it back. Tony Greig found out from the umpires that there were four balls left in the over. He insisted Rice bowled four of his fastest bouncers.

Now Garner was already nursing a broken left finger before the match. Rice’s first bouncer was steep and perfectly directed, aiming for Garner’s face. Garner instinctively brought his bat up, and the ball hit him on the left glove.

The pain was unbearable. There was no way Garner would continue after that. He retired hurt (which brought the innings to an end), but there was more to it. He first had an almighty smash at the wicket, knocking two stumps out of their grooves.

But one stump was still standing, which was not something Garner could tolerate. So he kicked it over a la Holding, and stormed back to the pavilion, still fuming.

Today’s cricketers and their demerit points seem rather docile in comparison.

Brief scores:

WSC World XI 102 in 41.1 overs beat WSC West Indies 67 in 29.4 overs (Imran Khan 3 for 12, Clive Rice 3 for 16) by 35 runs.

Man of the Match: Imran Khan.