Tony Greig: A rebel with a cause. He was a pioneer who shocked the world… and saved cricket
20:26 GMT, 30 December 2012
Tony Greig rocked the establishment in walking away from high office as England captain to play a key role in setting up Kerry Packer’s breakaway ‘circus’ in 1977.
Sportsmail pays tribute to one of the most significant cricketers in the history of the game by recalling how the late, great Ian Wooldridge broke the seismic news of the Packer revolution exclusively on the front page of the Daily Mail.
And how Greig, who died in Sydney on Saturday at the age of 66, was finally welcomed back into the home of the game when he was invited to deliver the Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture by MCC at Lord’s last summer.
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66 and out: Former England captain and popular television commentator Tony Greig has died in Sydney at the age of 66
Job well done: Greig, then captain of England, relaxes with a pint after a Test match at Old Trafford in 1972
On May 9, 1977, under the headline
‘World’s top cricketers turn “pirate” ’, Ian Wooldridge wrote: ‘In a
player revolution unprecedented in sport the world’s top 34 Test
cricketers have secretly signed contracts to become freelance
mercenaries. Disenchanted by low pay and what they regarded as doormat
treatment by cricketing authorities throughout the world they are to
play exhibition “Tests” for television and ten times the money.
‘The new Dogs of Cricket include
England captain Tony Greig and 13 of the Australian touring party (in
England at the time). The possibility must be faced that Greig’s
involvement will be seen at Lord’s as defection and that he will be
removed from the captaincy this summer. Overnight. the whole balance of
world cricket has shifted.’
Last June, 35 years after being
ostracised from the established game, Greig, whose career of 58 Tests,
14 of them as England captain, was ended by his shocking switch, stood
tall at the home of cricket and explained, at the behest of MCC, why he
made the move that changed the game for ever.
Greig said: ‘I must explain my
reasons for sacrificing the most coveted role in world cricket, the
England captaincy, to become involved with an Australian television
tycoon. A quote from the transcript of my meeting with Kerry Packer,
five days after the Centenary Test on March 22, 1977, gives the best
insight of how I felt at the time: “Kerry, money is not my major
concern. I’m nearly 31 years old. I’m probably two or three failures
from being dropped from the England team. Ian Botham is going to be a
great player and there won’t be room in the England side for both of us.
All-rounder: Greig scored 3,599 Test runs at an average of 40.43 and was also more than handy with the ball, claiming 141 wickets at an average of 32.20
Mentor: Greig offers some words of advice for players of the future during a match for Brighton and Hove CC at Basingstoke in 1978
Leaders: Deposed England cricket captain Tony Greig (right) and his successor, Mike Brearley, during practice prior to the 1st ODI against Australia at Old Trafford in Manchester on 22nd June 1977
“England captains such as Tony Lewis,
Brian Close, Colin Cowdrey, Ray Illingworth and Mike Denness all lost
the captaincy long before they expected. I won’t be any different. I
don’t want to finish up in a mundane job when they drop me. I’m not
trained to do anything. I am at the stage of my life when my family’s
future is more important than anything else. If you guarantee me a job
for life within your organisation, I will sign”.
Greig worked as a commentator for Packer’s Channel Nine in Australia until his death from a heart attack, after being diagnosed with lung cancer in October.
He continued at Lord’s: ‘Obviously
there were also key issues with the England administrators that
disturbed me which I felt would never be resolved. I couldn’t understand
why we were only paid 210 a Test when we were playing in front of
packed houses. The psyche of the administrators was that the honour of
playing for England was enough — money shouldn’t be a consideration.
‘Consequently I couldn’t see an end
to the game under-selling itself and there appeared to be no hope of
expanding the revenue base for Test and county players alike unless
there was a revolution, or at least a big upheaval. I have never had any
doubt that I did the right thing by my family and by cricket. I have
worked for Kerry Packer’s organisation for 35 years and my family’s
future has been secured.
Meeting of minds: Greig chats with Pakistan cricketer of the sixties Saeed Ahmed in the United Arab Emirates in 1997
Controversial times: Greig as captain of the World Series Cricket World XI in the 1979 Supertest Grand Final match with Australia in Sydney
‘After the initial nastiness and internal feuding, cricket and cricketers also did quite well out of World Series Cricket.
‘WSC ensured cricket reinvented itself to survive the changing world.
‘WSC was the jolt the administrators
needed and it flagged the message that they were substantially
under-selling the sport to TV.
‘Players immediately received
substantially more money at both Test and first-class level, which
increased the longevity of their careers.
‘Companies saw the value in using
cricket as a marketing tool. TV coverage improved significantly, which
increased interest in the sport. Night cricket created a new audience,
both in terms of television and at the ground, and generated
significantly more income.
‘Cricket’s success inspired other sports to imitate cricket with things such as TV coverage and sponsorships.’
Memorabilia: Greig studies the ball used by Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh when he became the first Indian to take a hat-trick in Test cricket at an auction in Bangalore in 2003
Greig concluded: ‘Cricket as we know
and love it still has plenty of problems. Most can be solved if the
International Cricket Council members put the game’s interests before
their own; if India accepts the survival of Test cricket as
non-negotiable; if India accepts its responsibility as leader of the
cricket world; if it embraces Nelson Mandela’s philosophy of not
seeking retribution; and if it embraces the Spirit of Cricket and
governs in the best interests of world cricket, not just for India and
its business partners.
‘What we have is a game with its
roots deep in the 19th century but, like a magnificent English oak,
continues to spread its luxuriant branches in the 21st century.
‘If we want our children’s children
to be able to climb on that tree, we must do everything in our power to
ensure that the tree can live.
‘To do that, no matter where we come
from in the world, we must be guided by the paramount and enlightening
thing that Colin Cowdrey, a man so courteous he called Jeff Thomson “Mr
Thomson” out in the middle, knew and cherished so well. The Spirit of
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WORLD OF CRICKET UNITES TO PAY TRIBUTE TO GREIG
England wicketkeeper, Matt Prior: 'Can't believe one of my heroes Tony Greig has passed away. One of the greatest voices in cricket and will be sorely missed. #RIPGreigy.'
England batsman Jonny Bairstow: 'Today we lost a fabulous man, a family friend and someone who was respected by all not only as a cricketer but a true gentleman RIPTonyGreig'
England opener, Nick Compton:
'Sad day – RIP Tony Greig a fantastic player and a good man, loved his
commentary was one of the best! Cricket world will miss u.'
Legendary Aussie fast bowler, Brett Lee: 'OMG Poor Tony Greig. I feel so sad and shocked right now. Can't believe it.'
England all-rounder, Luke Wright: 'Gutted to hear that Tony Greig has passed away. A legend on and off the field. Our thoughts are with his family and friends #RIPGreigy.'
Australia captain Michael Clarke on www.cricket.com.au: 'I was only speaking with Tony a couple of days ago so news of his passing is absolutely devastating.
'Tony has a long and decorated history with international cricket both as a player and commentator and cricket will be much poorer for his loss.
'Personally, he has also been a great mentor for me, providing great advice through the good times and the bad.'
Former Australian paceman Glen McGrath: My thoughts are with Tony Greig's family today. RIP Tony Greig'
Long-serving Nine Network cricket commentator and former Australia captain Richie Benaud recalled Greig's 'fearless' reaction to the English public following his decision to join the Packer team in 1977.
'There was an enormous amount of pressure on him,' Benaud told the Sydney Morning Herald.
'He was captain of England at the time and played against Australia at Lord's. The English people turned against him.
'He wasn't just a fearless cricketer but a fearless thinker as well. He would not just jump in boots first, but it wouldn't matter how much pressure it put on him, he would stick with it.'
Former Australia fast bowler Dennis Lillee told the same publication: 'Tony was a tough opponent who took on all opposition with aggression and a determination to win.
'We will not forget the way he stirred the viewers in a similar vein to the way he did to opposition teams.'
ICC chief executive David Richardson: 'This is extremely sad news for cricket and the ICC send their condolences to Tony's family and in particular his wife Vivian.
'Tony played a significant part in shaping modern cricket as a player in the 1970s and then provided millions of cricket lovers with a unique insight as a thoughtful and knowledgeable commentator – primarily for the Nine Network in Australia.
'I met with him on several occasions during the recent ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka where he was a senior commentator for our broadcast partner ESS.
'He was also a regular visitor to the ICC offices in Dubai when commentating for Ten Sports.
'I am sure that I will not be alone in saying that he and his wise words will be missed by cricketers, administrators and spectators around the world.
'His figures in Test matches show that he was one of the leading all-rounders of his generation with a batting average of above 40 and a bowling average around 32.'