Tributes paid to colourful skipper Greig


CRICKET:Former England captain Tony Greig was hailed for his skills as a player, captain, commentator and cricketing revolutionary yesterday after his death at the age of 66. Greig suffered a heart attack at his Sydney home in the early hours of the morning, having battled lung cancer for more than two months.

In his playing days Greig was renowned as a tenacious all-rounder and captained England in 14 of his 58 Tests, while in latter years he became known for his endless enthusiasm and wilfully provocative style in the commentary box, where he served in both England and Australia.

Greig was born in Queenstown, South Africa, and qualified for England due to a Scottish father. He captained Sussex and earned 58 Test caps, 14 as captain, before his controversial leading role in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket ultimately saw his playing career at the highest level wind down.

The Packer controversy was one of a series of flashpoints in Greig’s colourful career – another memorable incident saw him castigated for his promise to make the West Indians “grovel” – but has more recently been re-evaluated as a necessary bump in the road to the handsomely paid professionalism currently enjoyed by players all over the world.

Although divisive at times in his playing days, Greig’s passing united the cricketing world in tribute. England legend Ian Botham came into the side under Greig’s leadership and has been a long-standing supporter. “He was my first-ever captain for England. I’m very sad and very emotional,” he said. “He was flamboyant and extroverted, faster than light and he made things happen. He was an amazing guy and so full of energy. He changed cricket for everybody as we know it now. The game suddenly leaped forward and players started to paid more substantial amounts. He revolutionised the game. The players of today have a lot to be thankful for in Tony and Kerry Packer.”

Benefitted the sport

Another former team-mate, Bob Willis, was a dissenter against WSC in its formative stages but admits Greig’s decision to support the project was one that ultimately benefited the sport.

“It was a torrid time back in 1977. People took very entrenched positions and it wasn’t very pleasant being a Packer player in county cricket . . .

“He had a tremendous effect on my own career. He persuaded me to get really, really fit with long-distance running and that totally revolutionised my career. I never had another injury and went on to take over 300 Test wickets. It’s a very, very sad day for cricket. Sixty-six is no sort of innings.”

ECB chief executive David Collier said: “Tony Greig was an extremely talented all-round cricketer and captain. “He was a giant of a man who played a major role in the changing face of cricket during the 1970s.”

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