Farewell to one of Cricket’s Greats
It was sad to hear about the premature passing of Tony Greig, former England Cricket captain and Australia’s Channel 9 Cricket commentator.
Greigy, as he was affectionately known in Australia, was only 66 and we had heard recently that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. But it was a heart attack that took him from us, undoubtedly brought on by the rigours of battling cancer, although I am no doctor and I’ve heard no one else confirm that.
Tony Greig was a true multinational. He was born in South Africa and had a Currie Cup debut for Border Province, but then emigrated to England and signed for Sussex County Cricket Club. He quickly became one of the leading county players with bat and ball and is rated by many as one of England’s all time best all rounders.
He qualified to play for England because of his Scottish father and made his test debut against Australia in 1972. He was appointed captain in 1975 and was sacked 2 years later under controversial circumstances. Controversy should have been Greig’s middle name, as it followed him all through his life, often intentionally on his behalf.
Greig signed on with Australian multi-millionaire media magnet Kerry Packer, the owner of Channel 9 TV, to launch World Series Cricket. This was considered in many circles, especially England, to be treachery at the time, but in the long run it was for the benefit of the players and cricket in general. World Series Cricket brought in coloured clothing, white balls, floodlit night time Cricket and huge crowds. There is no doubt without it there would never have been 20/20 Cricket either.
Tony Greig was at the very centre of the launch of World Series Cricket. Apart from captaining the England side in the competition, he flew all around the world on Packer’s behalf recruiting the leading players of the international game.
As a result of his friendship with Packer and his love affair with Sydney in particular and Australia in general, Greigy emigrated again and was offered a “job for life” by Kerry Packer commentating for Channel 9 Australia.
Tony Greig took to Cricket commentating with all the professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication he had given to his playing career. But he never gave up being controversial, always backing England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and anyone but Australia in commentary, probably just to keep things interesting.
He would have running battles with co-commentator and former Australian captain Bill Lawrie, not only on the International level but also regional, with Greig singing the praises of Sydney and New South Wales while Lawrie is a dedicated Melbournite and Victorian.
Greig was famous for his on field novelties, like the Weather Board. But the longest lasting of his tricks was to inspect any cracks in the pitch with his car keys, infamously dropping them into a cavernous crack at the WACA ground in Perth on one occasion.
Although he was always a controversial figure and the South African Pom that Aussies loved to hate, he was also a great nurturer of talent and many people have given affectionate eulogies for him, both cricketers and people that he worked with in television.
Tony Greig was a great player and one of the true characters of cricket and he will be sorely missed by all who follow the game all around the world.
Rest In Peace Mr Greig.