Colourful, controversial, forthright

Tony Greig saga

Colourful, controversial, forthright

Tony Greig and controversy were never far apart, during his playing days and as a commentator.

On the West Indies tour in 1974 he ran out Alvin Kallicharran while the batsman was walking back to the pavilion after the last ball of the day had been bowled. Technically Kallicharran was out as the umpire had not yet indicated play had officially ended, but after spectators invaded the ground and threatened to riot, the batsman was recalled.

Later that year on the Ashes tour of Australia, Greig sometimes seemed to be playing the Australians on his own as Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson blitzed the hapless England batsmen with their pace, menace and bounce.

He was promoted to the captaincy in the following year after England lost the first Ashes Test at home and immediately infused his own aggression and determination into the team who drew the next three Tests against one of the strongest sides in history.

However, in 1976 Greig attracted further unwanted controversy before a series against West Indies when he said he intended to make the tourists “grovel”. The use of the word by a white South African in a time of heightened racial tensions enraged the West Indies, whose fast bowlers noticeably lifted their pace when Greig arrived at the crease on their way to a 3-0 series victory.

During the World Series Cricket, Greig's signature lent credibility to the event and he played a key role in recruiting disaffected players to the controversial competition which lasted only two years but permanently changed the face of the game.

“He influenced all those guys from overseas, certainly, and the West Indies to join World Series Cricket and it was great for cricket what he had done,” former Australia batsman Doug Walters, who played in the WSC competition, told Sky News.

“Greig was one of the great competitors of cricket...he was someone that really took the fight to Australia, but he took the fight to everybody.Win, lose or draw he was the first guy in our dressing room with a couple of beers in his hands.”

Greig's recruitment to WSC's cause put him at loggerheads with cricket's conservative establishment and he was stripped of the England captaincy in 1977. His international career ended that year after he had made a typically whole-hearted contribution under Mike Brearley to England's Ashes success at home.

A long-time resident Down Under, Greig later became a commentator with Channel Nine, having been promised a “job for life” by Packer.

A combative and occasionally abrasive character, Greig's booming voice and signature white hat featured on Australian television screens for over three decades, but his battle with cancer prevented him from taking his position behind the microphone for the current 2012/13 season.

“It's a great loss to world cricket. To me personally I'm shattered,” said former Australia captain Bill Lawry, who spent decades alongside Greig in Nine's commentary box.
“World cricket's lost one of its greatest ambassadors.”

Tributes flowed for Greig, who went from being a villain to a highly-respected cricket pundit in his adopted country.

“RIP Tony Greig!! You have left a great footprint on the world of cricket. My condolences to the Greig family,” retired West Indies batting great Brian Lara said in a post on his Twitter account.

“Not only was he a wonderful player and a very successful player for England, I think he was a wonderful guy,” Australia captain Michael Clarke told Australian television.
England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive David Collier said Greig had been “an extremely talented all-round cricketer and captain.”

Greig and the Viswanath moment

Tony Greig had a love-hate relationship with India.  But one moment forever etched in the memory of Indian cricket lovers is him cradling Gundappa Viswanath after the latter scored a hundred in the Mumbai Test against the visitors during the 1972-73 series.  Greig, obviously, had become a fan of the Vishy way of batting.

In the same Test, played at the Brabourne Stadium, when Greig hit a ton, Sunil Gavaskar and Viswanath tried to lift him, but failed!  Greig returned to the Indian shores in 1976-77 and became the first English captain to win a series in India in 15 years.

Greig fact file

* Born on Oct 6, 1946 in Queenstown, South Africa to a Scottish father.
* He started his first-class career for Sussex and prospered as an all-rounder.
* A towering figure at 6ft-6in (1.98m), Greig played 58 Tests for England, scoring 3,599 runs at an average of 40.43.
* He scored eight Test hundreds and 20 fifties and took 141 Test wickets at an average of 32.20.
* Greig played 22 ODIs, scoring 269 runs and taking 19 wickets.
* Greig captained England in 14 Tests.
* Greig, along with former Australia captain Ian Chappell, was one of the key players and recruiters of the rebel series which shook international cricket in the late 1970s.
* A noted cricket pundit known for his strong opinions, Greig later settled down in Australia and became a popular voice as a commentator for Channel Nine.

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