The end of an infectious partnership
Bill Lawry has remembered his friend and colleague Tony Greig as a great family man and a gentleman, and said he and Greig never shared a cross word outside the commentary box despite their memorable on-air banter. Lawry and Greig commentated together for 33 years on Channel Nine, a union that ended this summer when Greig was receiving treatment for lung cancer, and Lawry said he was "shattered" to hear that Greig had died aged 66.
"Most of all to me he was a family man," Lawry told ESPNcricinfo. "His wife Vivian is charming and he has four great kids. Every Test match in Sydney, the whole commentary team plus touring players, umpires, touring officials were all invited out to Tony Greig's place and that will be greatly missed next week. That's going to make the Sydney Test match very, very sad indeed. We're shattered for his wife Vivian and his four children because we've become close over the last 33 years."
The repartee between Greig and Lawry became an iconic part of the Australian summer throughout the 1980s and 1990s and continued over the past decade. It was a relationship that was sparked when Greig joined the Channel Nine commentary team fresh from two years of captaining the World XI during World Series Cricket, and Lawry remembers well their first meeting as fellow commentators.
"He walked in and said 'you're the Australian captain that lost 4-0 in South Africa aren't you?' And he beamed. And I said 'yeah, and you're the guy who gave up the captaincy of England for money'. I think from that moment on we were great friends because there was always a bit of banter. He won most times because his knowledge of cricket was far better than mine. He's a little bit like Ian Chappell, he was a bit of a cricket vegetable. He remembered almost everything that happened, and I'm a bit more airy-fairy than those two."
The differences between Lawry and Greig made them compelling when on air together, and it was producer David Hill who first saw the potential of the Lawry-Greig team.
"We had different views on cricket," Lawry said. "Tony's views were sometimes completely different to mine. But the point was we could have a bit of a challenge on air and as soon as we walked away we were the best of friends. We didn't have a cross word in the 33 years that I've known him. He was just a gentleman.
"He was fantastic because if you threw something out there he'd come in boots and all. There was no holding back with Tony. We laugh because originally he was well known for putting the key in the big cracks while doing the pitch report but his knowledge of cricket was outstanding. His record as an all-round cricketer was excellent and if you made a blue about something he was right on to you. He was always challenging but always a great friend."
On tour together as commentators, Greig would usually drive Lawry to the grounds - "he was a bit fast in the car," Lawry remembers - and they spent most nights having dinner together. In Hobart, the Channel Nine commentators would traditionally get together for a meal at Greig's favourite fish restaurant, and Lawry said the tradition was not continued during the recent Bellerive Oval Test.
"He loved the deep sea trevalla, battered. We always had that," Lawry said. "This year we didn't go because it wouldn't have been the same without Tony there."
It won't be the same in Sydney next week, either, where Lawry was hoping to see Greig for the first time since last summer.
"I was saying to Steve Crawley, our head of sport, yesterday I've really missed Tony this year and I'll be glad to see him in Sydney," Lawry said. "Of course I'm not going to see him and that's very sad."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here