Almost everyone unanimously credits Kerry Packer with changing the fortunes of cricket with his infamous World Series of Cricket in 1977. The owner of the Channel 9 in Australia was a media mogul and fought the Australian board single-handedly to get what he wanted.
Kerry Packer’s World Series of Cricket gave international cricket three very big innovations in cricket under lights, colored clothing, and drop-in pitches. He ran a parallel cricket tournament and succeeded in getting what he wanted, broadcast rights for the cricket in Australia during the 1970s and 80s.
A new book “On Air” by Mike Carlton reveals the level of influence Packer had on the Australian team and he reveals that he even seemed to have a direct line into the Sydney Cricket Ground dressing room. Packer was essentially the captain of the Australian cricket team whenever he wanted to be.
“Kerry was genial and Ros, his wife, chatted with the women. Most startling of all, Kerry seemed to have a direct line to the Australia dressing room at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Australia was in the field," Carlton writes.
He continues, “Every so often he would pick up the phone and snap an order: ‘Put (fast-bowler Craig) McDermott on... Give Waugh a few overs. A few minutes later the bowlers would obediently change. When the time came to leave, we whispered to the kids to thank their host. As one they turned to the butler, ‘Thankyou Mr. Packer,’ they chorused. Kerry snorted with a laugh.”
Carlton says, “Every now and then he’d pick up the phone and reset the field. He never explained it. He never said, ‘I’ll just give the dressing room a ring’.”
Allan Border and Kim Hughes were Australia’s Test captains during the mid-1980s and it seems likely both of them were at some point taking orders from Packer’s hotline through to the Australian dressing room.
In his first meeting with the former captain, Ian Chappell as they plotted their World Series Cricket revolution, one of the first things Packer did was overrule Chappell on the selection of spinner Ashley Mallett.
When Chappell tried to repeat the former Channel 9 supremo that he was no longer captain of the Australian team and shouldn’t be involved in selection discussions, Packer forever changed the landscape of the Australian cricket captaincy.
“What do you think this is, a bloody democracy? I pay the bills, I pick the captain. You’re the adjectival captain,” Packer exploded on Chappell.