Michael Hussey had one very powerful supporter.
Michael Hussey had one very powerful supporter.

Packer's ruthless Hussey call exposed

THE legend of the late Kerry Packer's influence over the Australian cricket team has grown with the revelation the former billionaire tried to strongarm selectors into a shock change during the 2005 Ashes.

The explosive series, often referred to as one of the greatest in cricketing history, saw England reclaim the urn for the first time in almost 20 years.

Going into the fifth Test down 2-1, Australia was fighting tooth and nail to force a series draw and avoid going home defeated.

Enter Packer.

The former Channel 9 boss's power over cricket was clear as day, owning the sport's sole broadcasting rights in Australia and launching the rouge World Series Cricket in the 1970s.

So clear, in fact, he felt nothing wrong with giving powerbrokers a quick phone call to demand Michael Hussey be rushed into the side.

In an excerpt from Daniel Brettig's upcoming book Bradman & Packer: The Deal that Changed Cricket, former Cricket Australia chairman Bob Merriman explains how Packer tried to get Hussey to replace the struggling Damien Martyn, even though the left-hander wasn't part of the original 17-man touring party,

Kerry Packer liked to pull some strings.
Kerry Packer liked to pull some strings.

"Get that f***ing Hussey in the side, quick," Packer reportedly barked down the phone, according to Brettig.

Merriman responded: "Kerry … the selectors will pick the side."

Packer piped back: "They can't pick a bloody club team, Martyn hasn't made a run!"

While Packer's word wasn't law, the broadcasting heavyweight did push Merriman into a phone call with chief executive James Sutherland.


"Please remind Trevor Hohns that he can pick any Australian, he doesn't have to pick from the 17," Merriman reportedly told Sutherland. "Just let him know that."

Hussey, who at that time had made over 15,000 runs in first-class cricket without earning a baggy green, was one of the many men banging on the door for selection in Australia's golden era.

Sutherland rang Merriman back later and said: "Bob, Mike Hussey's on a plane now, we can't get him in."

While Packer didn't get his wish and Australia lost the series 2-1, Hussey was the selectors' first choice that following summer when Justin Langer was sidelined with a rib injury, opening the door for the West Australian to make his Test debut.

Packer was determined to have his opinion heard.
Packer was determined to have his opinion heard.

"I didn't know that story, so that blows me away really," Hussey said. "I didn't want to be seen as the big saviour to try to help Australia win the series so I was actually quite petrified to be picked to be honest."

Bradman & Packer: The Deal That Changed Cricket will be released this week.

The latest claims about Packer follow veteran journalist Mike Carlton's revelations about his extraordinary hold over the Australian dressing room.

in his book, On Air, Carlton details the time Packer made phone calls from his Northern Beaches home demanding field changes midgame.

"Like most rich and successful business figures, he (Packer) could also radiate charm when he felt like it," Carlton wrote.

"Many years later, when I was working in radio, he heard that I was with my young family and some friends and their kids at Palm Beach (on Sydney's Northern Beaches), on the sand just below his big pink beach house on Ocean Road.

"It was summer, Saturday afternoon. He sent down an invitation - well a command really - to come up and watch the cricket on television, and he welcomed us up on the front deck with his enormous frame swathed in a voluminous Indonesian sarong and naked from the waist up. It was an imposing sight …

"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, 'Thank you Mr Packer,' they chorused. Kerry snorted with a laugh."