Calcutta: The Packer circus which ran for two seasons (1977-78 and 1978-79) didn’t have an Indian artiste, but the late tycoon Kerry’s key man Lynton Taylor did approach two top players ' Sunil Gavaskar and Syed Kirmani.
Gavaskar couldn’t be contacted till late on Tuesday, but Kirmani remembered the approach during a chat with The Telegraph.
“I think Asif Iqbal acted as the emissary when we were touring Pakistan in late 1978' Yes, in fact, Taylor met Sunny and me after Asif had spoken to us' Our stand was that we would first talk to the Board,” Kirmani recalled, when contacted on his cellphone.
[Asif, incidentally, was one of five Pakistanis ' others being Mushtaq Mohammed, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas and Imran Khan ' to be signed up in the first season. Sarfraz Nawaz, Javed Miandad and Haroon Rashid were taken on board later.]
Asked whether Taylor specified the amount Packer had to offer (for joining the Rest of World), Kirmani replied: “I don’t think he did, but it would surely have been handsome and on a par with what others were getting.”
According to Kirmani, he spoke to the then Board president, M. Chinnaswamy, and was categorically told he would have to choose between playing for India and turning out for Packer.
“I assume Sunny received the same reply' We didn’t really have to choose as the Board’s stand was clear and, in any case, there was talk Packer would soon reach an understanding with the Establishment,” Kirmani remarked.
Laughing, he added: “I don’t have regrets, though'”
Despite many tours to Australia, Kirmani never got to meet Packer ' actually, few cricketers (apart from the Tony Greigs) ever did. However, he’s convinced that the man who single-handedly changed so much won’t be forgotten.
“Cricketers will forever be thankful to Packer for getting the Boards to enhance remuneration' Then, the world is going to remember him for being innovative' In many ways, he was quite extraordinary,” Kirmani saluted.
Coloured clothing, white balls, Imran sporting the skin-hugging and teasing ‘Big Boys Play At Night’ T-shirt' Packer made it so much easier for today’s marketing whiz-kids.