Tributes pour in for Packer
Tributes to Kerry Packer, founder of World Series Cricket and the one-day version as we now know it, have come in from many cricketers past and present.
Packer was remembered affectionately by commentators at the MCG during the second day of the Boxing Day Test between Australia and South Africa. Richie Benaud, the former Australia captain, remembered his first meeting with Packer fondly. "We first met during the formation of World Series Cricket. There was never anything mundane or orthodox about him," Benaud said. "At the meeting I had with him, the thing that struck me most was that he was concerned only with the players. It was his job to put (the poor state of cricket) right, and put it right he did. He was absolutely brilliant."
Benaud, recruited to commentate on the first World Series match with Bill Lawry, recalled a defining moment from the late 1970s when Packer's imaginative concept found a place in Australia's sporting legacy. "He was the man who opened the gates at the Sydney Cricket Ground when Australia played the West Indies in that terrific day-night match, the first one ever at the SCG," Benaud said. "The gates were shut, but he declared them open because there were streams of people coming into the ground. That is the abiding memory I have of Kerry to do with cricket." Lawry also spoke of Packer's influence on the game and sent his condolences to the grieving family. "It's been a wonderful journey for me and this is a very sad day because Kerry Packer changed cricket forever and changed it for the better."
Tony Greig, the former England cricketer, summed up the day as a loss to the game of cricket. "Cricket has lost one of its greatest friends and supporters. Australia has lost a truly great Australian," Greig said on Channel 9 before the second day's play at the MCG. "People will not know how different things could have been without Kerry Packer. He was a very generous man, a bloke with an incredible sense of fun and that charisma that was around him."
Ricky Ponting, whose side donned black armbands as a mark of respect at the beginning of the second day's play, described Packer as one of the "all-time great figures of Australian cricket". "It's an extremely sad day for Australian crcket and the whole team passes on its condolences to the Packer family today," Ponting said. "A few of our guys in the side knew him a lot better than I did, Shane Warne being one of those. Shane was a pretty close friend of Kerry's, so it's an extremely sad day and it's a huge loss for the cricket community."
Warne himself issued a statement through Cricket Australia. "I would like to pass on my condolences to the whole Packer family on news of the passing of a great man in Kerry Packer," he said. "He has been a wonderful and very close friend of mine for over 13 years. We shared a lot of time together talking about life, business, sharing funny stories and, in particular, cricket which was his love. These memories will last with me forever. I will always remember you KP as a wonderful character, a close friend, and everyone involved in world cricket owes you so much."
Creagh O'Connor, Cricket Australia chairman, named Packer in the same breath as the late Don Bradman when speaking of Australia's sporting icons."That cricket is today taken for granted as a natural part of the Australian way of life is in no small measure due to his influence," O'Connor said in a statement released at the MCG. "The so-called 'Packer Revolution' in the 1970s has left a lasting legacy in the way the game is played, administered and presented to the public via the influential Channel 9 telecast. On behalf of Australian cricket, including all at Cricket Australia and its member state associations, and on behalf of the players he so admired, I offer Mrs Kerry Packer and his children, James and Gretel, our sincere condolences."
Packer passed away at his Sydney home late last night, and is survived by his wife Ros, son James and daughter Gretel.