The Cricket War by Gideon Haigh

Review published on November 17, 2017.

The Cricket War, by the excellent cricket writer Gideon Haigh, has been republished and updated since it was first published in 1993. In fact, this book was also made into a docudrama in Australia, which showed even the non-cricket fan what really went on in 1977, when cricket seemed to eat itself.

This is the story of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, something different to the cricket whites and red ball cricket people had grown up with. In 1977, Packer was 39 years old, and to some was threatening the whole existence of cricket, while to others he was an innovator and ahead of his time. Some of what Packer brought into the WSC, we now consider as normal and having been around for so long we cannot remember times without, for example, pyjama cricket.

Those who today watch one-day cricket and 20/20 cricket and prefer it to county and test cricket will be shocked to read what went before. This book gives a sense of the history of what happened to create the modern game of cricket as we know it today. From what I remember, to many cricket fans, the creation of the World Series Cricket was more dangerous than a rebel’s tour to apartheid South Africa. Maybe it was, but the sense that Packer could see red ball cricket needed refreshing and that comes across in this book quite clearly to me.

Gideon Haigh has researched and written, in my opinion, one of the best cricket books on the market today. His interviews with the cricketers concerned, not just the reported stories, help to make this a compulsive read, and provide an insight from a player’s view as to what was actually happening. Not only was this a ground-breaking time for cricket, but for sports media as a whole as well as the marketing of the game.

What Packer did in 1977, enabled Sky and Rupert Murdoch to do in the 1990s and it must never be forgotten that it was through using his fellow Aussie’s innovations that Sky gained a foothold in British sports media, and it was cricket that saved Sky. This was before they helped create the Premier League, again the various TV angles of today are based on Packer’s ideas.

This is really a fascinating read, and forty years later it is easy to see the improvements that Packer brought to cricket and sports media. It is also easy to see the failings. This really is an enjoyable book to read, the writing style makes it a pure pleasure to read, and the subject matter interesting.

Paul Diggett 4/4

The Cricket War by Gideon Haigh
Wisden 9781472950635 pbk Nov 2017

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