It was a historic day in cricket – and Montserrat’s own Jim Allen was right in the middle of the action.
On January 17, 1979, West Indies played Australia in a 50-overs match at World Series Cricket – better known as the Kerry Packer series. Packer, the Australian TV mogul, organized the tournament in defiance of the International Cricket Council. But although the event was not sanctioned by cricket’s world governing body, the game that day was the first international match in which players wore non-white uniforms.
Since Test cricket became official in 1877, players always wore white, regardless the match format. But Packer was a visionary, and among his innovations was the introduction of colored uniforms for one-day (limited overs) matches.
On that day in January of 1979, Australia wore canary yellow and the West Indies took the field donning coral pink, a color that drew ridicule across the cricket world as being hideous and effeminate.
West Indies legend Viv Richards, speaking in an interview a few years ago, explained how the team felt about wearing the pastel-looking apparel: “When we were leaving the dressing room to go on the field, no one wanted to be the first to run out,” he said.
For Jim Allen, though, he would have gladly played in pajamas if he had to. Getting an opportunity to play with the best in the world was what really mattered. But he does admit that the uniforms took some getting used to.
“It wasn’t just the uniforms that were pink,” Allen said. “The pads were pink too. If we could choose our own color we would have chosen something different. But after a while we got accustomed to it. We didn’t have a choice. We couldn’t change it.”
Batting sixth in the lineup, Allen entered with West Indies in trouble at 31 for 4. But he and Jamaican Richard Austin built a 34-run partnership as West Indies won the rain-plagued match on a faster run rate. Allen finished 20 not out, including a glorious four through the covers off legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee of “Thomson and Lillee” fame.
Allen, widely considered the greatest cricketer in Montserrat history, played for his home country from 1969 to 1984 and also starred for Leeward Islands and Combined Islands. He played two seasons for West Indies in the Kerry Packer Series but never played in a Test match for the official West Indies team – a fact he says is the biggest regret of his career.
Nonetheless, he was definitely part of cricket history as Packer transformed the game and helped make it more marketable. Today, all international teams wear alternate uniforms for limited-overs matches. All-white uniforms are now reserved mostly for Test matches.
But Allen can’t forget that day when the West Indies team wasn’t exactly tickled pink about its fashion statement.
“They even gave us some extra uniforms,” Allen says. “The pink pants weren’t that bad actually. I even used to wear them as regular clothes.”
Click here to view the scorecard from the match.
Click here to order a biography of former cricket star Jim Allen.