Packer Drama in Caribbean
BRIDGETOWN - THE MOST electrifying cricket series yet seen in the Caribbean has finally ended, and the region is settling Mack to the more sedate pace of its Shell Shield programme and to assess the impact of its inaugural Kerry Packer superstars show.
Spawned out of an unprecedented controversy in West Indies cricket, the World Series tournament had predictably to produce unprecedented scenes. There were great dramatic moments on the field by several of the supremely skilled cricketing professionals from the West Indies and Australia. But the excitement the series generated at times brought from the crowd a reaction that paled the players' performances into insignificance.
Never in history had Barbadian cricket fans behaved the way they did when the Clive Lloyd and Ian Chappell teams battle for supremacy in Supertest No 2 at Kensington Oval - an encounter they dearly wished to see West Indies win. The bonds of traditional Bajan conservatism and controlled conduct just burst apart. Irate fans twice produced a bottle barrage, with the second incident being serious enough to bring out riot police and force abandonment of the match.
Crowd disturbance continued with the tour in Trinidad and Tobago and reached its most serious level in Guyana where fans rampaged at Bourda, smashing equipment, invading the Members' pavilion and having to be quelled by police and troops.
Disastrous as the several disturbances appeared, they were nevertheless only the damning culmination of original good intentions: The crowds welcomed World Series Cricket, were enthusiastic about the matches, wanted to see the great stars in action, but in the end outdid themselves.
Apart from the problems created by ungovernable crowds, the Packer series faced periods of serious disruptions from the weather, a perennial hazard to cricket everywhere, and certainly nothing new to the Caribbean, especially Guyana. Players flew into a nearly flooded Georgetown for the Fourth Supertest and (riot apart) with play possible only three days, the limited action ran down to the inevitable draw.
It was rain too which almost surely robbed West Indies of a Fifth Supertest win in Antigua. With the home team beautifully placed at the end of the third day, rain intervened to slice away the fourth and a bit of the fifth, and that match too ground down to a dull draw.
Of the planned 12 limited-over internationals. rain hit a few and reduced the available time, but two were completely killed - the intended 4th in St. Lucia and the 12th in St. Kitts, the latter being a major disappointment to the Kittitians who in spite of the rain had packed the Warner Park Ground for what would have been the biggest ever cricket match to have taken place in their state.
The reduced revenue the rain has caused World Series Cricket has not yet been estimated, but it must be substantial though that is not to say that the tournament returned a net loss.
But the rich drama of the series was more than that from crowd and weather, for the players themselves provided much mainly on-field though the most sensational bit occurred away from the playing square.
Australian captain Ian Chappell was at the centre of it, the scene was Georgetown, and his adversary (or victim) was Guyanese advertiser Vic Insanally, who was filling the role of WSC public relations man for that leg of the tour.
They were quarreling in front of spectators in the main pavilion about which one was responsible for the crowd disturbances the previous Sunday. Chappell was saying Insanally was responsible because he had stuck his neck out and assured fans (in spite of the condition of the ground) that if there was sun, play would start on time.
Insanally's counter-charge was said to have been that it was Chappell who had refused to play. The crowd got tired waiting, and with sun shining and still no action in the middle or any word from officialdom, bottle-throwing burst out and developed into a ground riot.
Chappell blew his top and struck Insanally. Efforts to keep the matter out of police hands failed. Chappell first apologised publicly, then went into court on charges of assault and using indecent language. The decision was a total of 125 dollars (G) fine. The size of the penalty was of little consequence. What was of wide importance was the entire affair, expletives and all - the first time ever that a touring cricket captain has had to be pulled into court.
(Continued in next day's edition.)