Drinks break, Day Three, last SuperTest on Australian soil between WSC Australia and WSC World XI; the hosts lost the match by 5 wickets inside three days thanks to Barry Richards, Mike Procter, and Garth le Roux, three men who played a mere 11 Tests between them
Drinks break, Day Three, last SuperTest on Australian soil between WSC Australia and WSC World XI; the hosts lost the match by 5 wickets inside three days thanks to Barry Richards, Mike Procter, and Garth le Roux, three men who played a mere 11 Tests between them

Kerry Packer, armed by a purse matched by few in the history of the sport, revolutionised cricket forever in the late 1970s. He revolutionise telecast and introduced play under light and drop-in pitches; in fact, the second season saw World Series Cricket (WSC) SuperTests being played under lights.

But Packer’s legacy ran deeper. He paved way for substantially higher pay-scales for cricketers. He helped cricketers across the world look at the Boards in their eyes. The Boards had no option but to relent, and cricket underwent major change during the era. In a way Packer, arguably the greatest visionary cricket has seen, was the forerunner of franchise-based tournaments like IPL.

Australia fielded a second-string (third-string is more like it) against India, which they won narrowly. Bobby Simpson had to be dug out from obscurity. They were thrashed 1-5 at home by a full-strength England side. Eventually the Board had to recall Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee, and Rod Marsh, among others.

Australian Cricket Board (ACB) had their revenge: the SuperTests, despite the supreme quality of cricket on show, were not given First-Class status. Thus, the 16 SuperTests (11 in Australia, 5 in West Indies) are not something statisticians bring up every now and then. They found backing from ICC, and the numbers were lost forever.

Then came 2015, when Cricket Australia (CA) took a leaf out of Packer’s book and decided to host the first ever Test under lights — against New Zealand at Adelaide Oval, in 2015-16.

In an interview with Daniel Brettig of ESPNCricinfo, CA CEO James Sutherland said: “WSC was clearly some of the most competitive, high-performing international cricket ever played. Given the quality of the competition, players from that era regarded strong performances in WSC as career highlights. Such was the impact that WSC had on the game, it has been unjust that records from that competition haven’t been formally recognised.”

Who were the best performers of the WSC SuperTests? Let us consider batsmen with 500 runs and average over 30, and bowlers with 25 wickets and average below 30.

Batsmen

M

R

Ave

100s

Bowlers

M

W

Ave

5WIs

Barry Richards

5

554

79.14

2

Imran Khan

5

25

20.84

Greg Chappell

14

1415

56.60

5

Michael Holding

9

35

23.09

1

Viv Richards

14

1281

55.70

4

Andy Roberts

13

50

24.14

1

Lawrence Rowe

9

570

43.85

2

Joel Garner

7

35

24.77

1

David Hookes

12

771

38.55

1

Max Walker

7

28

25.43

2

Clive Lloyd

13

683

37.94

1

Dennis Lillee

14

67

26.87

4

Gordon Greenidge

13

754

35.90

1

Colin Croft

7

30

28.87

Roy Fredericks

10

621

34.50

Ray Bright

15

42

29.71

2

Ian Chappell

14

855

34.20

1

Of course, these would not alter the First-Class numbers significantly. To begin with, Greg Chappell had scored 24,535 First-Class runs at 52.20. The WSC numbers would improve him to a 52.42, which is a marginal rise. The case is similar for Barry Richards (28,358 runs at 54.74 with 80 hundreds in First-Class cricket).

No, merely adding to First-Class cricket would not alter their careers significantly; in other words, merely doing that will not do the legends sufficient justice.

What if…?

But what if these were given actual Test status? It will certainly be a deserving call, for when they were played, the SuperTests featured the greatest contemporary cricketers, some of whom had attained legendary status across a span of time. Surely Andy Roberts and Michael Holding bowling to the Chappell brothers was a classier proposition than Derick Parry and Maurice Foster to David Ogilvie and Craig Serjeant?

One of the reasons for pundits wanting to exclude Barry Richards from serious analysis is the small sample size of his Test career. The claim is justified: 4 Tests, after all, is too less.

However, while the likes of Gundappa Viswanath (1,488 runs at 64.69 against Packer-hit sides) and Sunil Gavaskar (1,607 runs at 64.28) feasted on depleted attacks, Barry Richards carved out 554 runs at 79.14. Richards’ career records would then read 1,062 runs at 75.86 with 4 hundreds from 9 matches. Put a 1,000-run cut-off, and this number is next to only Don Bradman’s, a whopping 12.81 ahead of Sid Barnes, the next name on the list.

Likewise, if we add the runs to Greg Chappell’s tally, his numbers shoot up to 8,525 at 54.30. Had the SuperTests been given official Test status, Chappell would have gone past Garry Sobers (8,032), and would have finished ahead of what Geoff Boycott (8,114) eventually ended with.

Viv Richards would have got 9,821 runs at 50.89, and would have, in all likelihood, waited to go past Gavaskar’s 10,122 before calling it quits.

Spare a thought for Marsh as well, whose 96 Tests had fetched 355 dismissals. His numbers will go up to 407 from 111 — ahead of Ian Healy’s 395 but behind Adam Gilchrist’s 416.

Similarly, consider Dennis Lillee, whose 70 Tests fetched him 355 wickets at 23.92. His average will go down slightly (to 24.39), but his wickets tally will read 422. Had they been incorporated at that time, Richard Hadlee would have had to wait to get to his world record tally.

There are many, many more things that may happen. Clive Rice and Garth le Roux will enter Test annals. Mike Procter’s already incredible numbers will read 55 wickets at 15.29. Put a 50-wicket cap, and he would be the best bowler since 1900 (even Syd Barnes had an average of 16.42!). Between them, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft will have 150 more Test wickets…

The opportunities are endless. We simply need to accept. CA have already taken the first step.

The statisticians will, as is justified, object, for it will mess up their database: what business does a World XI have in Test cricket?

But then, did we not have that ridiculous Super Series in 2005-06, involving Australia and World XI? Is the Test not part of official Test records? Surely Packer’s SuperTests are more deserving entries?

When will the next, the bigger step, follow?

 (Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)