The colour of money

Amongst the many stories concerning the flamboyant excesses of cricket and media mogul, Kerry Packer is one concerning his casinos and some specially made gambling chips that he had made for himself.

Like many Packer legends, it may well be exaggerated, or simply untrue, but you can be sure that it reflects the kind of man he was and what turned him on.

Packer was immensely wealthy and, less well known, even more immensely generous. He gave away millions of dollars every year and he enjoyed seeing how much he could change people’s lives with a simple flick of his
pen across the bottom of a cheque.

But he was also acutely aware of the evil and corruption that money caused within people and he did not enjoy that. What he did enjoy, however, was seeing the dilemma that piles of money caused people – and how they
dealt with temptation.

Metaphorically speaking, Packer’s preferred method of distinguishing his good staff from his bad staff would be to lead them into a room and leave them there in the belief that they were alone. With a million dollars, in cash. All alone. Packer the billionaire would them watch them on his private screen with the aid of a secret, hidden camera. Sort of an alternative to pornography.

Well, there is a successor to Packer. His name is Alan Stanford and he is American by birth by a resident and assumed national of Antigua now. And he is a huge fan of cricket. In fact, he likes the game so much he bought it.

Stanford recently bought 20-over cricket in the Caribbean for US$28 million, money desperately needed by an impoverished and increasingly bankrupt West Indian Cricket Board. The inaugural inter-island 20-over tournament starts soon.

When it’s finished, however, is when Stanford gets his kicks. For his money Stanford gets to play his own game. First, he becomes West Indies’ chief selector. Then he picks his favourite team. Then he picks the opponents for them to play against.

Then…he puts US$5 million on the table and tells them to play … winner takes all. The game is set for November.
The opponents are South Africa.

For a squad of, say 14, plus the usual complement of management staff who are entitled to a small share, that would be roughly equivalent 1.7 million Rand per player.

But Cricket South Africa have decided, very controversially as far as the players are concerned, that they are entitled to 65% of the money! So as it turns out, victory in Antigua in the week after the ICC Champions Trophy will ‘only’ be worth approximately 550,000 to each player.

Stanford is an American. He likes things ‘big’. Double big is better. Cricket is a peculiar game to Americans for many reasons but amongst them is the fact many of its top players earn in a year what top basketball players or baseballers get per basket, or homer, or whatever.

Stanford wants to see what happens to cricketers when they’re playing for something real, something that might just affect the rest of their lives. Imagine what R550,000 would mean to Loots Bosman, for instance. Not as much to Jacques Kallis of Graeme Smith, naturally, but still a lot even to them.

Whatever you may think of Stanford and his ‘gimmick’, I’d like to bet that you’ll be checking the Supersport schedule to see whether the game is one – and what time. I’ll certainly be watching!

Oh – the Packer story. Allegedly he had A$1 million chips specially made for him and, from time to time, strolled casually to a ‘normal’ table (not salon prive) and placed a bunch down on the table. Stories abound of young croupiers fainting with the pressure of it all.

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