England news June 24, 2013

Greig achieves final acceptance

20

Last summer, a few months before he died, Tony Greig was invited by the MCC to give its prestigious Cowdrey lecture at Lord's. Now, in death, he has been honoured by the other cricketing body who once outlawed him in England. To the gratitude of his widow, the ECB hosted his memorial service in Trafalgar Square, an occasion at which his controversial promotion of Kerry Packer's rebellious World Series Cricket - the breakaway movement which changed cricket forever - was widely praised.

Here was a service and reception at which the leading Packer-ites of the 1970s, Richie Benaud, John Snow and Derek Underwood among them, mingled happily with the odd foe. Doug Insole, a leading administrator in that era, was present. Michael Holding, whom Greig reckoned would once grovel before his England team, gave a reading. Jeff Thomson was there, the only member of the congregation not to wear a tie.

Dennis Amiss spoke movingly in St Martin in the Fields church, Trafalgar Square, of Greig's qualities of friendship and loyalty, but inevitably it was Benaud, with his lifelong gift of unearthing the telling phrase, who captivated his distinguished audience. "Players in those days were fine men who had families, wives, children and mortgages," he said. Then - after one of those characteristic pauses - "never forget the mortgage."

Pre-Packer, Benaud said, "players were paid peanuts and were treated with minimal respect if they asked for more. Tony felt strongly that there should be a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. If I had to choose one word to sum him up, it would be 'strong'. If two, it would be 'very strong'. " He concluded on the occasion by saying, "there is sadness but his advice would have been, 'just get on with it', so that is what we shall do."

Amiss said he had never heard Greig say a bad word to anyone - "except the Aussies, of course". He recalled his outstanding century in Brisbane against Thomson and Dennis Lillee on England's 1974-75 tour of Australia and how he would goad fast bowlers, be they Australians or West Indians, notably at The Oval in 1976. After describing how he had upped his pace and uprooted one of Greig's stumps in that final Test, Holding, the most gentle of cricketers off the field, was reading from Corinthians.

Greig's daughter, Beau, sang "Amazing Grace". There followed a stout defence of his stance over World Series Cricket by Vivian, his widow, who was critical of both administrators and the media of that era. She spoke of his enticing to WSC six England players who were at the end, or coming to the end of their Test careers, which was not strictly true: Underwood and Alan Knott, Greig's greatest supporter, were at the peak of their careers and Bob Woolmer had still to attain that, but her sentiments were understood and accepted.

Not least by Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB, the body that has succeeded the Test and County Cricket Board of Greig's time. Clarke, who was present, told her that "we have not properly recognised him".

The old players in the congregation - Geoff Boycott wearing a hat bearing his own signature, Mike Brearley, Keith Fletcher, John Lever, Tony Lewis, Pat Pocock and Mike Selvey among them - would doubtless have endorsed Underwood's view that Greig remains under-rated as a cricketer. "That was partly because Ian Botham came along, but Tony's ability to score a century against Lillee and Thomson in Australia and then make a nine-hour century in India showed that he could play in all conditions. And he was one of the best captains I played under."

Greig died last December, aged only 66. To a younger generation who had not seen him play cricket, he would have been best known as an exuberant, over-the-top commentator. He had told his second wife, whom he had known for 33 years, that by delivering MCC's 'Spirit of Cricket' lecture at Lord's last year, he had hoped to achieve "acceptance and understanding".

To his public, according to Vivian, "he could make anyone feel special". And to his children, he was a father "who would tell them such exciting bedtime stories that they couldn't go to sleep."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Philip_Gnana on June 25, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    A cricketer in all respects. Tony Greig, always had a soft corner for the underdogs and took up their fight in the press box and beyond. A loving tribute here at St Martin in Fields. Never a person to fold to the whims and fancies of the "regime". Outspoken as usual for the good of the game. I remember listening to the commentary when England were four down for 70 when along with Keith Fletcher took them to close at around 225 with a fine century stand taking them to safety. A kid at that time listening to the BBC World Service in SriLanka at that time. A great supporter of the plucky Sri Lankans and defended stoutly the attackers of Murali. A sportsmen of the highest calibre and esteem.

    Well played, Tony. Well Played. Philip Gnana, Surrey

  • whoster on June 24, 2013, 21:35 GMT

    Sounds like a wonderful memorial, and fitting for such a globally-loved figure in the game. As one of cricket's great entertainers, Tony Greig knew that himself and all other Test players weren't getting paid anywhere near their worth. On and off the pitch, Greig was one of the game's truly great salesmen. To hit Lillee or Thomson at their fiercest for a boundary, and then have the cheek and incredible bravery to signal '4' toward them was sheer cricketing theatre, and he was as big a reason as any that people were flocking to Test cricket at that time. He'll always be underrated as a player because of Ian Botham's emergence, but he was a world-class all-rounder in his own right - who shared Botham's exuberance and charisma. As a commentator he was wonderful. Always gave great insight, and always had the infectious excitement of a schoolboy when exciting things happened. He'll go down in cricketing history as a legend, and someone who won true affection the world over.

  • AlexfromPessac on June 24, 2013, 19:06 GMT

    Lovely article, and a well deserved tribute. However, it is sad (though maybe also very human) that sometimes a person has to die before what they did in their life is properly appreciated by their peers.

  • keptalittlelow on June 26, 2013, 10:00 GMT

    Tony Greig was a towering personality who the cricket fans of his era will never forget. History will judge Tony Greig as the man who ushered Cricket on to the new horizons of popularity.

  • Naresh28 on June 26, 2013, 8:35 GMT

    What a great tribute to a great English player - TONY GREIG. He left the cricketing world in shock when he left so suddenly. He was a good all-rounder and deserves this tribute - nice to see other former greats at this function.

  • RodStark on June 26, 2013, 0:47 GMT

    WSC undoubtedly did a lot of good overall, but what a career tony Greig might have had if WSC had never happened! He gave up a lot by being brave.

  • on June 25, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    Since I was born in 1990 i dnt know much about him as a cricketer..but as a commentator he's the best without any doubt, special for us Sri Lankans!..Miss ur voice and ur love for SL cricket...

  • on June 25, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    Is it inconceivable to suggest that without Packer AWG might have been remembered as one of England's greatest captains and players? His career might have ended about 1980 as he bowed out against the West Indies juggernaut having won series in India, Pakistan, NZ and od course won and then retained the Ashes in 77 and 79. Imagine the team he might have led to retain the ashes: Boycott, Gooch, Wooolmer, Gower, Greig, Botham, Knott, Emburey, Lever, Underwood, Willis. Although I would guess retiring before encountering the West Indies in 1980 would have been the the way to quit whilst his stock would have been its highest. The acknowledgment now is 30 years too late!

  • on June 25, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    What a character Tony! We in Sri Lanka miss you in the commentary box. There is nobody to stand up for SL on air, although Russell Arnold is doing a decent job. But he's no Greig. Nobody is....

  • YorkshirePudding on June 25, 2013, 7:59 GMT

    A lot is made of the fall out of the WSC, but we shouldnt forget that it wasnt the TCCB that was pushing for players to be blacklisted, it was the ACB. The TCCB went along with the ACB as at the time they were being told scare stories by the ACB about the fall out.

    Its a little like the IPL and ICL fued at the start of the T20 revolution 10 years ago, the IPL got the BCCI to outlaw the ICL as an illegal tournament, and ban any players that took part in it un less they showed contrition.

  • Philip_Gnana on June 25, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    A cricketer in all respects. Tony Greig, always had a soft corner for the underdogs and took up their fight in the press box and beyond. A loving tribute here at St Martin in Fields. Never a person to fold to the whims and fancies of the "regime". Outspoken as usual for the good of the game. I remember listening to the commentary when England were four down for 70 when along with Keith Fletcher took them to close at around 225 with a fine century stand taking them to safety. A kid at that time listening to the BBC World Service in SriLanka at that time. A great supporter of the plucky Sri Lankans and defended stoutly the attackers of Murali. A sportsmen of the highest calibre and esteem.

    Well played, Tony. Well Played. Philip Gnana, Surrey

  • whoster on June 24, 2013, 21:35 GMT

    Sounds like a wonderful memorial, and fitting for such a globally-loved figure in the game. As one of cricket's great entertainers, Tony Greig knew that himself and all other Test players weren't getting paid anywhere near their worth. On and off the pitch, Greig was one of the game's truly great salesmen. To hit Lillee or Thomson at their fiercest for a boundary, and then have the cheek and incredible bravery to signal '4' toward them was sheer cricketing theatre, and he was as big a reason as any that people were flocking to Test cricket at that time. He'll always be underrated as a player because of Ian Botham's emergence, but he was a world-class all-rounder in his own right - who shared Botham's exuberance and charisma. As a commentator he was wonderful. Always gave great insight, and always had the infectious excitement of a schoolboy when exciting things happened. He'll go down in cricketing history as a legend, and someone who won true affection the world over.

  • AlexfromPessac on June 24, 2013, 19:06 GMT

    Lovely article, and a well deserved tribute. However, it is sad (though maybe also very human) that sometimes a person has to die before what they did in their life is properly appreciated by their peers.

  • keptalittlelow on June 26, 2013, 10:00 GMT

    Tony Greig was a towering personality who the cricket fans of his era will never forget. History will judge Tony Greig as the man who ushered Cricket on to the new horizons of popularity.

  • Naresh28 on June 26, 2013, 8:35 GMT

    What a great tribute to a great English player - TONY GREIG. He left the cricketing world in shock when he left so suddenly. He was a good all-rounder and deserves this tribute - nice to see other former greats at this function.

  • RodStark on June 26, 2013, 0:47 GMT

    WSC undoubtedly did a lot of good overall, but what a career tony Greig might have had if WSC had never happened! He gave up a lot by being brave.

  • on June 25, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    Since I was born in 1990 i dnt know much about him as a cricketer..but as a commentator he's the best without any doubt, special for us Sri Lankans!..Miss ur voice and ur love for SL cricket...

  • on June 25, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    Is it inconceivable to suggest that without Packer AWG might have been remembered as one of England's greatest captains and players? His career might have ended about 1980 as he bowed out against the West Indies juggernaut having won series in India, Pakistan, NZ and od course won and then retained the Ashes in 77 and 79. Imagine the team he might have led to retain the ashes: Boycott, Gooch, Wooolmer, Gower, Greig, Botham, Knott, Emburey, Lever, Underwood, Willis. Although I would guess retiring before encountering the West Indies in 1980 would have been the the way to quit whilst his stock would have been its highest. The acknowledgment now is 30 years too late!

  • on June 25, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    What a character Tony! We in Sri Lanka miss you in the commentary box. There is nobody to stand up for SL on air, although Russell Arnold is doing a decent job. But he's no Greig. Nobody is....

  • YorkshirePudding on June 25, 2013, 7:59 GMT

    A lot is made of the fall out of the WSC, but we shouldnt forget that it wasnt the TCCB that was pushing for players to be blacklisted, it was the ACB. The TCCB went along with the ACB as at the time they were being told scare stories by the ACB about the fall out.

    Its a little like the IPL and ICL fued at the start of the T20 revolution 10 years ago, the IPL got the BCCI to outlaw the ICL as an illegal tournament, and ban any players that took part in it un less they showed contrition.

  • Paracha420 on June 25, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    After so many years down the road people are coming to recognize the importance and change of era that World Series Cricket gave to cricket and of course the man who supported the idea was our very own Tony Grieg the greatest commentator in my opinion and also a great cricketer and even a better captain.....

  • Nutcutlet on June 25, 2013, 7:10 GMT

    There are three interlinked words that come to mind when recalling Tony Greig as a man & as a player. They are: combative, courageous & caring. He played his cricket for England with a great deal of flair & passion, leading from the front for his adopted country. The enormity of his achievement in helping to establish WSC has to be one of the seminal moments in the history of the game as it opened the way for professional cricketers to be paid realistically for the first time. That took enormous vision & courage. I always warm to anti-establishment figures as they are the ones that move the world on, giving the stuffed shirts a good kicking & making the cricketing world a more egalitarian place. That's where the courage combines with the caring. We need a Tony Greig for every generation & must be mighty grateful for his massive achievements in his.

  • nafzak on June 25, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    Too bad Mr. Tony Grieg was dissed by the establishment for so long. He was certainly very under-rated and it was a shame that he was not given due consideration when ESPN was picking best 11s for each Test playing country a couple of years ago. A very very good and capable all rounder.

  • KingOwl on June 25, 2013, 0:58 GMT

    Tony Greig was a good man. He fought hard for what he believed in, and it was often on behalf of the powerless against the powerful. As a Sri Lankan, I will not forget his support for SL cricket during some tough times.

  • Kunal-Talgeri on June 24, 2013, 23:49 GMT

    Really miss the man! Am heartened to know that the ECB is recognising his immense contributions to the game, even if his actions once looked anti-establishment and contrarian. It expanded the game at the cost of his position in England and many friendships. He could needle administrators, co-commentators and viewers alike. But to me, he was a global voice and the Spirit of Cricket!

  • on June 24, 2013, 23:04 GMT

    Tony Greig has contributed immensely to Sri Lanka cricket too. As a nation we bow to his memory for what he has been to Sri Lanka and to Sri Lanka cricket. May his soul rest in peace.

  • Robster1 on June 24, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    Isn't it interesting that every single player who played with, under and against him speaks so very highly of Greig. A most under rated cricketer and more importantly man. Every professional cricketer today owes him a debt. RIP big man

  • Chris_P on June 24, 2013, 21:40 GMT

    You were a fine ambassador to the game and great human being, Greigy.

  • 2.14istherunrate on June 24, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    Like so many men of real vision he has had to wait till he has died to be properly accepted. I remember him pre Packer and his drives down the ground and his long arms delivering swinging fast medium pacers. He always looked a man of great dynamism and to many achieved great things with bat and ball,particulalry against Australia. He will be best remembered for inviting the Windies to grovel and then feeling a Holding & Roberts bouncers parting his hair.Later in life I enjoyed his commentary,particularly from our last tour of sri Lanka. He always sounded such an enthusiast and so warm towards people.He underestimated his opposition in the case of Windies and the establishment over Packer, but he had the courage to stand up for himself.

  • whatawicket on June 24, 2013, 20:20 GMT

    a fine man who only new one way to go forward in up and at em. in either action or voice

  • whatawicket on June 24, 2013, 20:20 GMT

    a fine man who only new one way to go forward in up and at em. in either action or voice

  • 2.14istherunrate on June 24, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    Like so many men of real vision he has had to wait till he has died to be properly accepted. I remember him pre Packer and his drives down the ground and his long arms delivering swinging fast medium pacers. He always looked a man of great dynamism and to many achieved great things with bat and ball,particulalry against Australia. He will be best remembered for inviting the Windies to grovel and then feeling a Holding & Roberts bouncers parting his hair.Later in life I enjoyed his commentary,particularly from our last tour of sri Lanka. He always sounded such an enthusiast and so warm towards people.He underestimated his opposition in the case of Windies and the establishment over Packer, but he had the courage to stand up for himself.

  • Chris_P on June 24, 2013, 21:40 GMT

    You were a fine ambassador to the game and great human being, Greigy.

  • Robster1 on June 24, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    Isn't it interesting that every single player who played with, under and against him speaks so very highly of Greig. A most under rated cricketer and more importantly man. Every professional cricketer today owes him a debt. RIP big man

  • on June 24, 2013, 23:04 GMT

    Tony Greig has contributed immensely to Sri Lanka cricket too. As a nation we bow to his memory for what he has been to Sri Lanka and to Sri Lanka cricket. May his soul rest in peace.

  • Kunal-Talgeri on June 24, 2013, 23:49 GMT

    Really miss the man! Am heartened to know that the ECB is recognising his immense contributions to the game, even if his actions once looked anti-establishment and contrarian. It expanded the game at the cost of his position in England and many friendships. He could needle administrators, co-commentators and viewers alike. But to me, he was a global voice and the Spirit of Cricket!

  • KingOwl on June 25, 2013, 0:58 GMT

    Tony Greig was a good man. He fought hard for what he believed in, and it was often on behalf of the powerless against the powerful. As a Sri Lankan, I will not forget his support for SL cricket during some tough times.

  • nafzak on June 25, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    Too bad Mr. Tony Grieg was dissed by the establishment for so long. He was certainly very under-rated and it was a shame that he was not given due consideration when ESPN was picking best 11s for each Test playing country a couple of years ago. A very very good and capable all rounder.

  • Nutcutlet on June 25, 2013, 7:10 GMT

    There are three interlinked words that come to mind when recalling Tony Greig as a man & as a player. They are: combative, courageous & caring. He played his cricket for England with a great deal of flair & passion, leading from the front for his adopted country. The enormity of his achievement in helping to establish WSC has to be one of the seminal moments in the history of the game as it opened the way for professional cricketers to be paid realistically for the first time. That took enormous vision & courage. I always warm to anti-establishment figures as they are the ones that move the world on, giving the stuffed shirts a good kicking & making the cricketing world a more egalitarian place. That's where the courage combines with the caring. We need a Tony Greig for every generation & must be mighty grateful for his massive achievements in his.

  • Paracha420 on June 25, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    After so many years down the road people are coming to recognize the importance and change of era that World Series Cricket gave to cricket and of course the man who supported the idea was our very own Tony Grieg the greatest commentator in my opinion and also a great cricketer and even a better captain.....