The spine still tingles at footage of Wayne Daniel clubbing Mick Malone for six off the last ball to win one of the first-ever night matches.
That, and the inaugural Sydney Cricket Ground day-night match in front of a crowd that literally could not be counted because the gates were thrown open, marked the birth of cricket under lights.
Individually, Greg Chappell would be unquestionably rated Australia’s second-best batter after Don Bradman if his 1415 Supertest runs were added to his 7110 official runs. Imagine averaging more than 50 against the quickest pace attack on some rough and ready but always spicy pitches. The standing of Lillee, both of the Richards, Lloyd, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and many others would be burnished if their statistics were incorporated into their official Test numbers.
But those are, as Ian Chappell and others said when Cricket Australia decided to ‘recognise’ them in a separate category in 2015, just numbers. For the greats, the stats just make them greater.
Consider some of the others. Australia’s Rob Langer and Wayne Prior, the West Indies’ Jim Allen and South Africa’s Clive Rice and Garth Le Roux are not officially ‘Test’ cricketers, yet they played Supertests of higher calibre than most Test cricket seen in their lifetimes. Many others whose official international records are fleeting would be dignified with the substance they deserve if their WSC records were recognised. Bruce Laird, as one example among many, scored three Supertest hundreds against Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding and Colin Croft. Laird never made a century in his 21 official Test matches. After 45 years, it’s time.
There have been periodic pushes to get WSC recognised, and the arguments against it get weaker over time. It used to be maintained that as the laws of cricket, also under ICC copyright, did not apply to WSC, they weren’t ‘real’ Test matches. Baloney. All sorts of rogue variations – three-day Tests, timeless Tests, private tours, exhibitions – are incorporated into official records going back to 1877. There is nothing fixed and sanctified about ‘Test cricket’ that can bar Supertests from official status. The fact that some Supertests were played by a World XI does not rule them out either, as the ICC recognises other World XI fixtures. Several dozen WSC one-day internationals also deserve official recognition.
The only conceivable reason for the ICC’s ongoing inaction is that the two countries that were significantly under-represented in WSC, England and India, now the most powerful in the game, have no stake in it. If cricket were steered instead by Australia, the West Indies and Pakistan, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
When it can be hard to find the meaning in some of today’s fixtures, why is it important to give it to those that took place 45 years ago? It is a sad matter to state why this should be a frontline issue. The youngest WSC players are now close to seventy, and the oldest – West Indian Lance Gibbs – is 88. Fellow West Indian David Holford passed away this year at 82. The cricket world lost Rod Marsh, Ashley Mallett, Gary Gilmour, David Hookes, Tony Greig and Bob Woolmer before their WSC contributions were given their due.
Imran is facing more pressing matters than his cricket record, but the least the cricket world can do is to fully respect these players’ place in history while they can still appreciate it. There are many ways a sporting event can be given meaning. Meaning is fluid, and may not just evaporate with time. One day cricket will come to its senses and fix this anomaly. Why wait until it’s too late for those who care most?
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