Crown Resorts chairman James Packer has paid tribute to cricket legend Richie Benaud, who died today, aged 84.
Packer’s father, Kerry, recruited Benaud to Channel Nine when he owned the TV station and started the breakaway World Series Cricket in the 1970s. It was Kerry who suggested he wear the cream jacket that became Benaud’s signature.
Three years ago, Benaud told Fairfax Media that the best advice he ever received came from Kerry Packer in the early ’90s during a boardroom lunch with all the commentators at Nine’s Sydney HQ.
Benaud recounted that Packer came up to him and said “Andrew Symonds can do just about anything, make runs, take valuable wickets, slide almost into the boundary rope to save runs, get to his feet without touching the ground with his hands and his return to Gilchrist is at flashing speed and over the bails”.
“Son … I don’t want you to do that; all I want from you is to put your brain into gear before you open your mouth.”
Here is James Packer’s statement:
Just as he did for so many Australians, Richie Benaud loomed very large in my father’s life and later in mine.
Long before he joined Kerry to help launch World Series Cricket in 1977, Richie had caught dad’s eye as the dashing young cricketer who was already changing the way the game was played. He was a lethal leg spinner who wore his shirt unbuttoned deep down his chest and celebrated wickets by rushing to his team mates for previously unheard of celebrations, rather like the pretty handy leg spin bowler who followed in his path; Shane Warne.
Richie was also swashbuckling batsman who played big shots and a daring captain who always played to win and was never afraid to take his chances. That’s what Kerry liked most about him. But as we were both to learn, there was so much more to Richie Benaud.
As good a cricketer and captain as he was on the field, Richie proved an even more influential figure off it.
Having joined Channel Nine way back in those heady days of WSC, Richie quickly established himself as a master commentator – a man who turned word economy into an art-form and never used two words where one would do. That he knew more about cricket than anyone around him in the commentary box was also a big start. Richie described cricket like no other, but Richie was as prodigiously modest and generous as he was talented.
He shared his knowledge and his commentary skills, as all those who’ve worked with him will attest.
Dad and I enjoyed a long, long professional and personal journey with Richie Benaud. He was not only for nearly four decades a much-loved figure in the Nine family, but also in the Packer family.
We never had a cross word. Richie’s word was his bond. Like so many others, we treasured Richie’s quiet but steely integrity, his honesty, his modesty, his sense of humour and his towering skill.
But above all, what we always knew about Richie was that he was in the vernacular simply a great bloke. A lovely, generous, caring human being who was always the very best company. We shall miss him, but treasure the huge part he played in our lives.
My deepest condolences to Daphne and Richie’s family.
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