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Tony Greig on the death of his friend Kerry Packer
I first met Kerry Packer after the Centenary Test in Melbourne in 1976-77. The media interest in the game had been so huge that I had had barely a moment's peace. I wanted to meet someone in the media with a view to doing an exclusive deal. A friend, the former Aussie opener Bruce Francis, suggested I meet Kerry. It turned out that Kerry had one of his people Austin Robertson trailing me at the time with a view to arranging a meeting. Bruce and I went to Kerry's home in Sydney, where I told him what I was interested in, and it was then that he told me what he had in mind.
My first impression was of a bloke who was very specific and clear about what he wanted me to do: to pick and recruit 16 of the best players in the world to play against Ian Chappell's XI. He explained to me why he was doing this. I was a bit dubious about whether his idea `had legs' because his initial motivation was to acquire cricket for his TV station, not to satisfy the needs of cricketers. I got an undertaking from Kerry that I would have a job with him one way or the other. At that stage I was 32 and I was approaching a benefit, the idea of which I hated because it's tantamount to begging. I was looking for financial security for my family. Everything else was a bonus.
It was obvious that World Series Cricket would benefit all cricketers who were being ripped off by the establishment. Kerry Packer had more influence on big-time cricket than anybody who never held a bat. He dragged the game kicking and screaming into the 20th century and ensured its prosperity in the 21st. Cricketers were ill-served by their masters. The politest things that can be said about the establishment when Packer came along was that they were naïve, incompetent nincompoops.
My impression of Kerry was that he was very strong, would do the right thing by me and that he would support the people that had helped him. We became very close, would see each other almost every weekend and would go on overseas holidays together. For a while, if you had asked me what my plans were, I'd have said it depends what Kerry is doing.
He was a very smart bloke, with an investigative mind, a great lateral thinker, a non-drinker and had an incredible memory. I consider it a privilege to have been associated with him.
This article was first published in the February issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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