Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:


There was a minute’s
silence at the Melbourne Criket Ground this morning for the man
responsible for arguably the game’s greatest controversy, World Series
Cricket in the late 1970s. The ground announcer described Packer as
“one of the most influential men in cricket history.”

Speaking from the ground Gideon Haigh, the cricket writer and author of a Cricket War – The Inside Story of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket,
said that in 1997, when Packer was tearing the game apart, “if you’d
asked me if one day there would be a minute silence for Kerry I
would’ve laughed.”

As Haigh noted, earlier this year, when the
Australian Cricket Board was celebrating its centenary, Packer was
named alongside Don Bradman as the greatest influence on the game in
the past 100 years. But according to Haigh, people who try to cast
Packer as the saviour of an ailing game are wide of the mark. When
Kerry came along “cricket was an extremely valuable commercial property
that was being under-exploited. Packer just exploited it, and exploited
it better than anybody else.”

Packer made changes in two years
that it took other sports a decade to adopt, said Haigh. But Packer’s
commodification and commercialisation of cricket had its drawbacks.
“Kerry Packer guaranteed that the game would never be beyond price,”
said Haigh. “It could always be bought and the players decided that
their services could also be bought. If the highest bidder was a
bookmaker, what was to stop them?”

Once, when Packer was setting
up World Series Cricket, he summoned Ian Chappell to Sydney, said
Haigh. With his feet on the desk he told him he was going to be
captain. Chappell pointed out that his brother Greg was in fact
captain. “What do you think this is, a bloody democracy?” replied
Packer.