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Cricket's greatest salesman

Tony Greig had unlimited enthusiasm for the game, and he took it global, working from Brisbane to Bridgetown and everywhere in between

Mark Nicholas

December 30, 2012

Comments: 64 | Text size: A | A

The Channel 9 commentators got dressed up for the occasion, Australia v England, 1st ODI, Melbourne, January 16, 2010
Greig (far right) and Nicholas (third from left) in retro outfits along with their Channel 9 colleagues © Getty Images

So Greigy has died. He didn't seem the sort. That huge heart, the heart that brought an uncompromising and triumphant life, finally said enough now, enough. He was born in 1946, and you kind of expected him to say good morning to all his viewers in 2046. Unbreakable Greigy; spirited, talented, courageous, opinionated, passionate, compassionate Greigy. Hard nut one minute, soft as the sands of Bondi the next. Goodbye, mate.

Anthony William Greig was out of South Africa's Eastern Cape, to Sussex in England, then Sydney, where he settled with a beautiful family of young and old, from marriages old and new. He first met his second wife, Vivian, soon after the World Series Cricket days and they became an irresistible partnership - breathtakingly good-looking, stylish and fun. Eventually their joint legacy was to be two children: Beau who is tall, gifted and 12, and Tom, two years her junior and a complete natural with bat and ball. Today their confusion and grief will be overwhelming. Though time will never fully heal, it will allow space for their father's strong leadership to make its impact.

Greig was a dynamic and fearless leader. He brought confidence and bravado to English cricket and unwavering commitment and showmanship to World Series Cricket. That move away from England was the seismic shift in his life. He stood at Kerry Packer's side and from an unlikely friendship came the seismic shifts of modern cricket. More money, more colour, more drama, more commerce. He was the face of the game's popular culture, full of mischief but still grounded, rooted even, by cricket's inherent and traditional values. This was a contradiction that England could not understand. The old school patronised his belief in a better world for all and vilified his desertion. He was sacked as captain - of course he was, like a dozen strokes from the headmaster solves anything - and left to rot as the adopted son who betrayed a nation.

Greig did anything but rot. This was a man who conquered epilepsy, the English establishment was but a bauble of intrusion. He convinced the greatest players in the world to come to Australia and play for Packer. He made the World XI a team that took on and beat the Aussies and by galvanising this so-called circus - probably the best cricket ever played, incidentally - he gave credibility to the show that ultimately brought Packer the television rights he so desired. This was, by any standard, a phenomenal achievement. In less than two years the game had changed forever.

The Eastern Suburbs of Sydney became his home, the Packer compendium his playground and the beaches his relaxation. But most of all, the television screen gave him a new identity. He became cricket's greatest salesman, taking it global, working from Brisbane to Bombay, from Birmingham to Bridgetown. He understood television's unique access and its value to the broadcaster, the advertiser and audience. "This is the time, boy" he once said to me, rubbing his hands with glee as we took our commentary seats at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, "that we get the housewives and the children: get them now and they are ours forever."

He stood at Kerry Packer's side and from an unlikely friendship came the seismic shifts of modern cricket. More money, more colour, more drama, more commerce. He was the face of the game's popular culture, full of mischief but still grounded

He loved it - absolutely, unconditionally loved that microphone. Yes, he could raise the hairs on the back of any neck and just occasionally he pushed his luck but mainly, day in and out, he educated and entertained in a way like no other. Bill Lawry and Geoffrey Boycott loved to work with him; Ian Healy, Ravi Shastri and Ian Botham loved to work with him too. There you have it, a common appeal. Sure, he could shoot you a look or fire a barb; intimidation was often the name of his fame. Surprisingly, when it came to work he was as insecure as the next man - "The jury's still out on you blokes" he said to Ian Healy, Mark Taylor, Michael Slater and me three or four years back, with tongue only marginally in cheek - but he cared deeply about the product and was terrified that one day he may not be a part of it. He need not have worried. The key with Greigy was to divide most things he said by half; that way you got a better feel for their real meaning.

For example, he was not remotely racist in his threat to make the West Indians "grovel". Rather he thought that if you got on top of them, you had better stay there or they would bounce back and bite your balls off. And he was right, they bit and they bit, until he screamed. When he arrived in India as captain of England, he emerged from the plane into the subcontinental clamour and pronounced Indian umpires to be comfortably the best in the world. This got him favourable decisions previous touring teams could not have dreamed of. Against all odds England won the first three Tests and secured the series before anyone worked it out. Sort of a heist, or better explained as the power of personality.

It is worth noting that Tony was an exceptional cricketer, without ever quite looking like one. Platinum blond, gangly tall, long arms loping, big hands flapping, bigger smile disarming, and a huge, almighty, competitor. He scored his runs at more than 40 per innings and took his wickets, as both swing bowler and offspinner, at better than 33 per innings. Only two other men have ever done that. And he took a heap of catches, mainly at slip. The runs came against Lillee and Thomson; Roberts and Holding; Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrasekhar. Hardly muggins. The wickets included names such as Richards and Chappell - in other words, the best.

So what is left? The memory of a wonderful life, for sure. A strong family, with Viv at the helm and his older children, Mark and Samantha - who have children of their own - close by in spirit and place. A legacy of unbridled passion for cricket and everlasting enthusiasm for life. A gift of energy, of a determination to move things on, to not look back. Sure he liked a bit of hype; frankly, he couldn't see the downside. And yes, he liked to be No. 1 but he is not the lone ranger there.

There are myriad friends of course, and warm audiences that miss him already. And there is a sense of romance left behind, in the sense that cricket and family are as one in their ability to unite and broaden. In the redemptive MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture that he gave at Lord's earlier this year, he said: "Give your hand to cricket and it will take you on the most fantastic journey." You, Tony, have been the best evidence of that.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

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Posted by Stieprox on (January 1, 2013, 18:40 GMT)

my fav commentator.i will miss him a lot..........

Posted by SaleemM on (January 1, 2013, 13:07 GMT)

Tony Greig will always be remembered for standing up against feudal lords of cricket as he worked hard to get higher pay for cricketers. I had the honour of watching him playing live at Karachi in 1974 series under the captaincy of Tony Louis. A great man, a great cricketer, a great commentator, a legend left so early will always be missed.

Posted by AtifSubhani on (January 1, 2013, 6:06 GMT)

Tony made people love this game more and more. He had a style of his own. A voice full of enthusiasm and passion. 'Rawalpindi Express has left the station'; 'They're dancing in the aisles' .. U ll be missed Tony.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2013, 4:40 GMT)

The cricket worl will miss Tony Greig dearly. He was one of the truly great commentators of the game.

Posted by kamiCric on (December 31, 2012, 23:21 GMT)

It is difficult to come to terms with this loss. Feels like cricket commentary is orphaned, the colour of the players kit has faded and the vibrance of the 'box' is somehow lost.......

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 21:11 GMT)

RIP TONY GREIG. You will be missed sir.

#Pakistan fans

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (December 31, 2012, 15:59 GMT)

The famous grovel quote was replayed in full on the day of his death on TV-it is quite staggering how simple words as these came to be manipulated so grotesquely at the time.(Only -'We're gonna make them grovel' was ever mentioned, without the preamble.' The fact is Greig was right. I remember watching Windies collapsing to Tufnell at the Oval in 1991, and again in 1994 in Bridgetown and thinking 'human after all.' Losing sides just look bad whoever they are, and Windies of that era were no exception. Overall a very fine piece from Mark Nicholas about a man who must have been his mentor in enthusiasm. I remember thinking 'What a lovely guy,' about Grieg when he was commentating from SL in the England series.

Posted by hnlns on (December 31, 2012, 13:53 GMT)

Excellent write up from Mark Nicholas. Greigy along with Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell and others made it a pleasure to view Channel 9 telecasts from 1984/85 onwards, the first time Indians made big strides in Oz land. Wonderful set of commentators who made me a big fan of viewing those ODIs in Aussie land from 4:30 a.m. onwards, often not missing even a single ball. Even today, I relish watching those ODI highlights whenever they get telecast. We really miss you Tony. May your soul rest in peace.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 11:28 GMT)

RIP Tony. Never took a backward step, whether on the field facing Roberts, Holding, Lillee or Thommo (and averaging 40+ against those guys is no mean feat), or off it facing administrators. Modern cricketers owe you a huge debt of gratitude for your part in getting them their current deals. Massively underrated as a cricketer: the figures suggest he may have been England's best ever all rounder.

Posted by wilsondilip on (December 31, 2012, 9:38 GMT)

i always liked his leadership; and IMRAN stated that he jolined packer only to play under the DYNAMIC CAPTAINCY OF big tony.RIP.

Posted by HyderabadiFlick on (December 31, 2012, 8:37 GMT)

Grieg! Born in South Africa Played for England Lived in Australia Supported Sri Lanka He was a no non-sense man! R.I.P

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 8:18 GMT)

He was a great Commentator we will all miss him may his soul rest in peace. Amen Richie Benaud and Bill Lawry are the other cricket living legends.

Posted by denwarlo70 on (December 31, 2012, 7:57 GMT)

To us Lankans Tony Greig was a fellow Sri Lankan. He has been an Ambassador, a friend and a staunch supporter of Sri Lankan Cricket. We are going to miss you big time Mr. Greig, May you rest in peace with the Lord and our prayers go out to the immediate family. There is so much for me to write about Mr. Greig but there is no sufficient space avalable

Posted by Engr.TahirShah on (December 31, 2012, 7:03 GMT)

Take care of Richie Benaud and Bill Lawry. They are the other survivors who are really the "Voice of Cricket". Tony Greig was a leader in this regard. There will be no charm in listening to cricket commentry if these two gentlemen also leave us. Tony's void will never be filled. An absolute ambassador of the game. Thanks for your memories Greig.

Posted by Captain_Crick on (December 31, 2012, 6:24 GMT)

RIP Greig - One of the best commentators in world cricket. We miss you.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 6:16 GMT)

A fantastic article Mark. Greigy himself would have been proud to read it.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 5:16 GMT)

He was........really worthy for the game of cricket. his commentry has brought us joy /fun / sense and the knowledge of the game ..............He is master class on his speech and very my helpful '''' For SRILANKAN CRICKET......FOR YEARS. ..............finally good bye......true Legend.......We Thank you......for everything you did to boost our country's game..........RIP............. TONY......

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 3:51 GMT)

RIP Greigy - A moving, fitting tribute Mark to a towering icon for cricket who with his informed commentary and his eternal ability to entertain and educate provided so much to all followers of cricket. Will always have a special place in the hearts of all Sri Lankans for his unstinting support for SL cricket. Thoughts with his family and friend. Will be sadly missed but forever in our hearts.

Posted by ajithabey on (December 31, 2012, 3:39 GMT)

Tony Greig is one of the finest personalities I have met during his tours to Sri Lanka.He was intrumental in promoting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination when he took his helicopter rides to the venues around Sri Lanka.I once met him at Thilanga Sumathipala's home where he hosted the illustrious Sunil Gavaskar ,Tony and other cricketing personalities to dinner.He was so fond of sea food especially crabs and indulged in regularly where he said that he wants to sweat from his brow.Sweat he did but thoroughly enjoying himself.His commentaries and knowledge of the game was par excellence.Your memories and spirit will live with us forever.Cricket has lost another great ambassador.Tony,may you rest in Peace and may the turf lie lightly on you.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 3:36 GMT)

the whole cricketing world can't fill the void that he left behind especially in commentry box.we love you tony..

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 3:33 GMT)

Grieg, was a great commentator - he always made us love the game - true ambassador of game. I miss his commentary.

Posted by Foddy on (December 31, 2012, 3:25 GMT)

A lovely tribute to a lovely man. Although I never met Tony Greig, his death somehow moved me - almost to tears - much more than that of any well-known personality, sporting or otherwise, in recent years. He seems to have had the ability to communicate with people on many different levels, and cricket and the world will truly be a sadder place without him. Mark Nicholas also has the great ability to get to the centre of what people were; I still remember - and sometimes read again - his heartfelt tribute to Malcom Marshall.

Posted by jbgardener on (December 31, 2012, 2:54 GMT)

Following the link in this article, I see that the top three all-time all-rounders (statistically speaking) are all South African - two of them from the same school - Greig would have enjoyed that.

Posted by Robster1 on (December 31, 2012, 2:04 GMT)

And perhaps the best slip fielder of all time ?

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 1:52 GMT)

I have some fond memories of his commentaries. What made him stand from his colleagues in the commentary box was his unparalleled enthusiasm and energy for the game, which infected all of the listeners. If the Match was going down to the wire, than there was no other than Tony Grieg that you would want to listen on to.

I will always have some great memories of the man. Some of Pakistan's greatest victories were commented on by him. RIP.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 0:59 GMT)

A great cricketer, commentator and as a 14 year old asking for an autograph, was a friendly guy who had the time to stop and say hello. Will be sadly missed by all.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 23:30 GMT)

Oh my god iv just learnt tony Greg has passed away my god bless your soul and may sleep in the gardens of heaven you were a great man and you will be truly missed r.i.p

Posted by RajasH on (December 30, 2012, 23:27 GMT)

I am from Sri Lanka. I will iss his pineapple moments

Posted by Hammond on (December 30, 2012, 23:14 GMT)

For someone who doesn't agree that Packer was good for the sport of cricket (and has no time for the limited overs game) Tony Greig will always be just a traitor to his adopted country, selling out his own sport at the same time that he was captain of the oldest cricket team on the planet, the Marylebone Cricket Club. An astute commentator, and a courageous batsman, still he helped destroy cricket from what it was then into the shambles that it is now.

Posted by ChandraPrince on (December 30, 2012, 22:12 GMT)

I learned Tony Gregg's passing with sadness. A great human being, abvobe all else. His love for the game of cricket made him a star. He brightened and improved so many of the lives that he came in touch. He will be missed a great deal, especially by Sri Lankans-- whome he loved. We love you back Mr. Gregg!

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 20:25 GMT)

I still remember how desperate I used to get to listen to Tony Greig's commentary back in childhood, even though I didn't know much English back then. But I loved his accent, I loved his expressions, I loved the way he gave his heart and soul to his work. You will be missed, sir!

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (December 30, 2012, 19:37 GMT)

Nice article Mark Nicholas. As usual you are an excellent cricket writer up there with Peter Roebuck. Even though I didn't agree always with Peter Roebuck's views one thing you and Peter have in common is an excellent ability to write in the English language in a very eloquent manner. Nice tribute to Tony Greig, your co-cricket commentator. RIP Tony Greig. Who was a very good cricketer and Captain for England in the 1970s and then an very knowledgeable,fair,unbiased and flamboyant cricket commentator for Channel Nine, BBC and Sky as well guest appearances in Sri Lanka,India, WI and UAE in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. He will be sadly missed by all cricket fans who will miss his cheerful South African-English-Aussie drawl on our Television screens.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 19:30 GMT)

One of the best commentators the game has ever seen.. You will be definitely missed Tony Greig..

Posted by RSA2k3 on (December 30, 2012, 18:53 GMT)

The best TV commentator by far, If I had to pick one commentator from each country he would have headed the list, followed by Tony Cozier, Ranjith Fernando, Ravi Shastri, Mark Nicholas, Robin Jackman and perhaps Geoff Boycott

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 18:28 GMT)

Tony Greig was Globally and universally a champion on the cricket pitch, off it he was the most gifted commentator along with Richie Benaud. There is not a single person in the sporting world who has made such a difference and created such an impact over the last thirty years and there never will be . In any walk of life there can't be anyone that will be missed as much as Tony will be. I first saw Greigy in 1972 against the Australians , time and time again he and Alan Knot would get England out of a crisis. I personally am grateful to him for his contributions to get World series cricket and put it on the sporting and commercial map. Mark Nicolas has written a very praiseworthy tribute which could not have been scripted any better and is well deserved by Tony Greig. Thank you Mark... . Also a huge thank you to all you Australians who took Tony to your hearts and and made him the icon he became...

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 17:44 GMT)

thank you tony for your extraordinary contribution to cricket,you brought in money to cricketers,and along with richie benaud you were the best commentator on cricketing matters-and every comment you made showed your love for the indian subcontintent-greggy we will miss you

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 17:10 GMT)

Vale Tony Grieg, For all you cricketing nations, outside of Australia, who thought, Tony was against Australian Cricket. You did not know the man, he was open, and generous, with his knowledge of the game, with all Australian cricketers, straight up, told it how he seen it, like a typical Aussie bloke. That`s why us Aussies loved him, and his opinions, because he was forthright, and honest.

Posted by Hmahmud123 on (December 30, 2012, 15:50 GMT)

Lovely article Mark. Anything you say about Greig is not enough, such a great great ambassador of cricket. Cricket lovers will keep him in their heart forever.

Posted by crickketlover on (December 30, 2012, 15:23 GMT)

I always thought Tony Greig and Mark Nicholas are the two best commentators in the world. Mark, please carry on the legacy! Great article and great tribute to the man who will be missed dearly.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 30, 2012, 14:47 GMT)

As the commentator who always injected the most vigour into any match, whilst remaining balanced and contemplative in his opinions, Grieg was a legend to many fans around the world. His career on the field stands him out as a progressive, a visionary of his time, and a solid captain and cricketer too. He truly was a central figure of the cricketing community throughout his life.

Posted by Santosh_G_Vashista on (December 30, 2012, 14:33 GMT)

Mr. Tony Grieg, We really miss you. I loved only your commentary, Your enthusiam is awesome & I still remember his praising words for Sachin Techndukar in 1998 Sharjah, That was just superb at that time. that's the ultimate love for cricket.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

He was most thunderous and lively commentator we have ever since. He never bored at any time. With his experiences in all continents in different area, made his commentary extremely volatile. He was well measured in his words and never embroiled in any controversy for any irresponsible remarks.

Am sure Channel Nine team have already missed him this season and would continue to miss him in future.

Feel both sad and sorry, that we will continue to miss you !

Long Live Tony Greig !

Posted by Khann6 on (December 30, 2012, 13:08 GMT)

Dear All Cricket Fans,

Its a very sad moment for all cricket lovers. Without Greig the cricket world will be empty at least for a while particularly we all will missed his commentary. He was an excellent commentator and was entertaining all of us with his superb skills of commentary. No one car replace him.



Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 13:04 GMT)

Tony Greig was the first great cricketer to have played the game, and then died, during my love affair with the game. As such his passing hit me just that little bit harder. I saw him play in South Africa before he was famous, I was there when he became England captain at Lord's in 1975 - and saw him make 96, off-driving in that way that was peculiarly his, with the left hand virtually around the bat. i supported him when he took on the cricket establishment, and was deeply impressed by his artiulate defence of the rights of players. a great player and an enormous force for good in cricket. bless him

Posted by MEHATELK on (December 30, 2012, 12:28 GMT)

I do watch cricket for last 26 years, i think you were the best commentator of those three decade.we badly miss you tony,

Posted by cloudmess on (December 30, 2012, 12:21 GMT)

Any mention of Tony Grieg always makes me smile. He was such a positive personality, never one to hold back, even when it sometimes landed him in hot water... He brightened up the game of cricket over the last 45 years. I also thought this was a warm and wonderfully written tribute, the best so far - Nicholas may be better-known for his presentation skills, but he can also really write.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 12:02 GMT)

Sri Lanka's favorite commentator will always be missed. his support for the srilankans will never be forgotten

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 11:58 GMT)

After Mike Selvey in the Guardian, Mark Nicholas has become my favourite cricket writer - always hugely generous, perceptive and eloquent. This is no exception.

Posted by Markdal on (December 30, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

Great tribute. I remember when England came out in 1974-5, Denness was an ineffective captain, but Tony Greig was a revelation. He won fans here because he played like an Australian. To this day, he's very under-rated as an all-rounder. As a commentator, he wasn't averse to putting his foot firmly in his mouth (like the 'mail-order bride' comment!), but he never took himself or his role too seriously. He was always up for a challenge (I remember him wind-surfing off Hobart). But most of all, he just came across as a nice guy. RIP Tony, and well done Mark.

Posted by naveen1122 on (December 30, 2012, 11:46 GMT)

A lovely to read summary, it tells us how badly he will be missed. We, Sri Lankans, will definitely miss him worst next to Tony's family.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 11:32 GMT)

Gr8 Gr8 man tony.................. huge loss

Posted by seesaw on (December 30, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

Tony. R.I.P. You are and for ever,will be remembered by the Queens boys. I for one will never forget you and am proud to have made your acquaintance under the 'Hangklip'.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 10:13 GMT)

RIP Tony Greig you took cricket commentary to a new era.... you will be sadly missed by cricket fans specially in the subcontinent ...... I can still remember the words 'Little Kaluu....' You were the voice of cricket

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 9:57 GMT)

one of favorite commentators..!!!tough to digest!

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 9:36 GMT)

We will miss his exciting voice

Posted by Beertjie on (December 30, 2012, 9:14 GMT)

Wonderful tribute, Mark. I think he inspired you as much as he did anyone.

Posted by DCDC on (December 30, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

Very well said. RIP. We love you.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 8:55 GMT)

A brilliant summary of an amazing life. Thank you Mark.

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 30, 2012, 8:49 GMT)

He was great commentator with lots of local knowledge.

Posted by Paracha420 on (December 30, 2012, 7:54 GMT)

OH boy a gr8 tribuite to the Legendary Tony Grieg cricket will never be the same without you Griegy.....

Posted by adnan.tarar on (December 30, 2012, 7:50 GMT)

nice commentator all pakistan likes him.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2012, 7:28 GMT)

One of my favorite commentator! Whenever there was a important milestone in a match, I was wishing him to be commentator. Lucky to see him and watched very closely on Wankhede way back in 2001 in India- Aus historic series. Rest in peace Tony Greig!

Posted by lebigfella on (December 30, 2012, 6:18 GMT)

Beautifully put Mark as always... a rousing tribute befitting the man

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Mark NicholasClose
Mark Nicholas A prolific and stylish middle-order batsman for Hampshire, Mark Nicholas was unlucky never to have played for England, but after captaining his county to four major trophies he made his reputation as a presenter, commentator and columnist. Named the UK Sports Presenter of the Year in 2001 and 2005 by the Royal Television Society, he has commentated all over the world, from the World Cup in the West Indies to the Indian Premier League. He now hosts the cricket coverage for Channel Nine in Australia and Channel 5 in England.

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