Cricket Australia Items/news/2012/12/29/tony-greig

Greig: Voice of the game

UPDATED 29 December, 2012 5:38PM AEST | by Peter English

An accomplished England captain, Tony Greig walked away from the establishment to become a revolutionary, before settling into life as an unmistakable voice of the game.

Greig died on 29 December 2012, aged 66, after being diagnosed with a form of lung cancer in October 2012.

Prior to entering the Channel 9 commentary box Greig was a genuine allrounder – that rarest of creatures – who appeared in 58 Tests from 1972 to 1977. 

However, as the country’s captain, he made the decision that would ultimately define him in England, joining Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket after having a key role in recruiting the rebels. 

Then in his early 30s, Greig had set his sights on life after cricket when he met with Packer to negotiate.

“If you guarantee me a job for life working for your organisation I will sign,” Greig said to Packer. And so it was, with Greig becoming the most loyal of Packer lieutenants after being forced out as England’s leader. 

Until missing the 2012-13 season to undergo treatment, Greig had been a fixture behind the microphone for more than three decades, developing a love-hate relationship with viewers. 

But for all those who were frustrated by his refusal to promote Australia, there were many others buoyed by his attempts to outline an opposing view. 

Greig’s combination with former Australia captain Bill Lawry was legendary, a pair of straight-laced cricketers performing an odd-couple routine of comedy, pantomime and insight that could enliven any passage of play. 

The pair’s legacy is generations of followers yelling their catchphrases during cricket matches, barbecues and work. Greig’s booming voice, which never lost its childhood roots, is mimicked across the globe.

Born in South Africa in 1946, Anthony William Greig played locally for Border and Eastern Province, but made the most impact at Sussex after moving to England as a teenager. 

He was picked in the Rest of the World side to face Australia in 1971-72 and made his debut for England the following home summer. 

Starting, appropriately, in an Ashes Test, he registered a pair of half-centuries and collected five wickets to help England to victory.

Overall he owned 3599 Test runs at 40.43, including eight centuries, which sat alongside 141 wickets at 32.20. 

There were no doubts over his ability – or his bravery. 

He was a batsman who stood up to Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson at their peak in 1974-75, making 110 on a difficult wicket at the Gabba. As a bowler, he could challenge with his thoughtful medium pace or tease with offspin. 

Greig’s time as a World Series Cricketer was largely unsuccessful, but the bigger picture was achieved in creating a path to professionalism. 

He also contributed a crucial safety item by pioneering batting helmets, which he forever called “crash helmets”.

A towering man at 6ft 6in, Greig was usually covered by a broad-brimmed hat on his morning journeys for the pitch report.

He was often controversial and had a global reach with his forthright views, but believed deeply in the game’s values. Delivering the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s in June 2012 he said:

“The spirit of cricket is also about putting the game's interests before yours or your country's interests.” 

During the speech, a type of homecoming after his England Test exit 35 years earlier, he also outlined his passion for the game. 

“I love cricket because apart from the skill required to succeed, it is a great leveller. It is also a wonderful test of temperament and a test of courage. I love it for the people it has introduced me to – lifelong friendships with people from across the globe.”

Greig is survived by wife Vivian and children Beau, Tom, Samantha and Mark.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia

First Posted 29 December, 2012 4:36PM AEST

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