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Quiet goes Greig

Reuters

Posted: Dec 30, 2012 at 0123 hrs IST
      

Melbourne: Former England captain Tony Greig, one of the architects of cricket’s World Series revolution in the 1970s, has died at the age of 66 after suffering a heart attack at his Sydney home on Saturday. Greig, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in October, was taken to a Sydney hospital but died at about 1:45pm (0245 GMT).

“The staff of the emergency department worked on Mr Greig to no avail,” a spokesman at St. Vincent’s hospital said.

A larger-than-life figure standing 6ft 6in, South Africa-born Greig was an outstanding all-rounder who played 58 Tests for England from 1972-77, scoring 3,599 runs at 40.43 including eight centuries and claiming 141 wickets at 32.20 each. He was also a brilliant slip fielder, taking 87 catches in Tests.

Greig could bowl at either a lively medium-pace or, on occasion, employ quickish off-spin, using his height and bounce in the latter style to take 13 wickets and win a Test match in the Caribbean.

But Greig and controversy were never far apart and on the same 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 win.

Greig’s biggest impact on the game came after he joined forces in 1977 with late Australian businessman Kerry Packer to set up the breakaway World Series Cricket competition. Greig’s signature lent credibility to WSC and he played a key role in recruiting disaffected players to the controversial competition which changed the game.

Combative character

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.

A long-time resident Down Under, Greig later became a cricket commentator with Channel Nine, having been promised a “job for life” by Packer. Greig’s booming voice and signature white hat featured on TV 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. 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.”

Whaddaplaya!

There could have been no greater background score to Sachin Tendulkar's mastery in Sharjah than the voice of Tony Greig. For Indian fans watching that famous Desert Storm tri-series on the telly, Greig's excitable vocal cords and Tendulkar's happy-go-lucky exploits were inseparable. Here are a few unforgettables uttered by a much loved commentator.

You little beauty!: Greig, when Sachin closed in on a century against the Aussies, one that would take them to the final.

They are dancing in the aisles in Sharjah: With Sachin's 143 helping India qualify, Greig finds it hard to contain himself.

Whaddaplayaaa!: In just three words yelled all at once, Greig describes Sachin after his 134 in the final.

The little man has hit the big fella for a six: Sachin. Tom Moody. Straight back over his head.

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