Guest Post: Come In, Card No.84

Scanlens World Series Cup Cards 1981/82
Card No.84 was the Holy Grail over the summer of 1981-82. Depicting West Indian batting genius Viv Richards, it was the last card from the Scanlens World Series Cup collectors set.

The Scanlens cards came with terrible cardboard-like chewing gum. And in the manner of previous Scanlens card series for Star Wars, Buck Rogers and Grease, the backs of the cards created a poster when combined.

The scene depicted when the WSC cards were meticulously collated was, predictably, the previous summer’s third final in Melbourne. That was the one day match in which Trevor Chappell’s under arm delivery threatened irreparable damage to trans-Tasman relations.

west-indies-listDramatic days they were for New Zealand cricket, and the Scanlens cards somehow encapsulated the breathless thrill of the one day game. The 84 cards (or 83 in my case) spanned the Australian, Indian, New Zealand, English, and West Indian teams. There were also ancillary cards listing those squads – the West Indian one only taunting my failure to collect the set.

Scanning these cards now it’s hard to believe the breadth of talent on display during those years when Kerry Packer’s game first captured the public imagination. Perhaps it was due to that talent that the public here, in Australia, and further, got so caught up in it all.

Across the other four nations are names like Lillee, Border, Holding, Garner, Boycott, Botham, Gower, Dev, Vengsarkar, Gavaskar, and yes, Richards. What an eleven that is…

But here’s the New Zealand collection: Lance Cairns, Bruce Edgar, John Parker, Mark Burgess, Warren Lees, John Wright, Paul McEwen, Jeremy Coney, Ewen Chatfield, Ian Smith, Gary Troup, Brian McKechnie, Richard Hadlee, Geoff Howarth. The latter duo had two cards each.

That’s an outstanding line-up in anyone’s book. Superstars like Hadlee, Wright and Cairns notwithstanding, there’s some depth and fight in there. Journeymen bowlers like Chatfield and Troup, two reliable wicket keeper/batsmen in Lees and Smith, the great under-sung opener Edgar, and brittle all-rounders like Coney.

howarthcard1Then there’s the troubled Howarth, whose batting talent suffered terribly under the responsibilities of captaincy. But his often brilliant tactics were clearly responsible for New Zealand’s inordinate cricketing success in the early 1980s.

Of course, he did have that stellar squad to command. When I asked Howarth, around the time he launched his autobiography Shaken Not Stirred, to name his top New Zealand team, the majority came from there. Alongside Wright, Edgar, Smith, Hadlee, Chatfield, Coney and Cairns, he named Martin Crowe, Andrew Jones, Glenn Turner and his brother Hedley, who died recently.

That Wright, Hadlee and Cairns are there is no surprise. The former often laid a solid innings foundation, while the latter’s ballistics don’t need reiterating. Nor do Hadlee’s histrionics; one of the greatest all-rounders at a time when they were abundant in world cricket.

God, how we could use someone like that now. But the same applies to the majority of the players that figure on those Scanlens cards of 27 years ago. It’s a team weighted towards experience, where today’s Black Caps squad tips precariously the other way.

It’s an indication of the state of the wider cricketing picture in 2008, where money rules all, and where administrative incompetence in this country has damaged the game.

Now that New Zealand cricket is at a low ebb, and the triangular competition that was once the World Series Cup has ended after 29 summers, those Scanlens cards seem even more poignant.

Cricket’s far removed from those more innocent times when the one day game was in its infancy and a set of cards ruled the summer, and my meagre financial means.

But I never did find Viv Richards, No. 84.

– Gavin Bertram


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Filed under Cricket, Guest Post, Reminiscing

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