Australian cricket pays tribute to Kerry Packer

Published: Tuesday, December 27, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Melbourne:The Australian cricket community mourned the passing of media magnate Kerry Packer, acclaimed as the greatest influence in reshaping the modern-day game.

Packer, 68, Australia's wealthiest man, died with his family at his bedside at his Sydney home late Monday, his Channel Nine television station announced on Tuesday.

Packer introduced World Series Cricket and popularised the one-day version of the game in the 1970s. He won the rights to broadcast one-dayers on his television network.

Cricket Australia chairman Creagh O'Connor said Packer stood alongside the late Don Bradman as one of the giants who had influenced the shape of Australian cricket.

"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.

"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.

"One-day international cricket is now an international phenomenon as a result of Kerry Packer."

Australian captain Ricky Ponting said Packer had left his mark on cricket in Australia.

"Kerry Packer's one of the all-time great thinkers and figures of Australian cricket," Ponting told Channel Nine. "It's an extremely sad day for the whole cricket community in Australia.

"The Australian cricket team and everyone involved in cricket in Australia pass on their condolences to the Packer family."

Ponting said he had met Packer several times and had chatted about cricket and golf, another of the media mogul's passions.

"A few of our guys in the side knew him a lot better than I did, Shane Warne being one of those," Ponting said.

"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 later issued a statement, speaking of his friendship with Packer. "He has been a wonderful and very close friend of mine for over 13 years," he said.

"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 KP as a wonderful character, a close friend, and everyone involved in world cricket owes him so much."

International Cricket Council president Ehsan Mani said Packer changed the face of cricket.

"His World Series Cricket took the game by the scruff of the neck and dragged it into the modern era and although, at the time, many people had reservations, the current healthy state of our sport shows how wise he was," Mani said in a statement.

"Day-night cricket, white balls and black sightscreens, coloured clothing and cutting-edge television coverage are all aspects of the game that modern cricket fans take for granted and all of them are down to one man -- Kerry Packer.

"The players also owe him a huge debt of gratitude because he recognised their worth and paid them accordingly. Before Kerry Packer's arrival players were not paid that much.

"He recognised they were the entertainers and had to be rewarded, he helped make cricket an attractive career option for youngsters and that was one of his great achievements."

Channel Nine commentators Richie Benaud, Tony Greig, Ian Chappell and Bill Lawry described Packer as a generous, charismatic man who had a great sense of fun and was a lateral thinker towards the way cricket was televised.

Former England captain Greig, one of the central players in World Series Cricket, described Packer as his mentor and friend.

"It's a very sad day for all of us. I think that the big thing is that cricket has lost one of its greatest friends and supporters," Greig said.

"Probably even bigger than that, Australia as a nation has lost a truly great Australian.

"Cricket the world over, I don't think, will ever know how different things would be without Kerry Packer."

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