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Tony Greig - England Cricketer

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Anthony William Greig was born in Queenstown, South Africa on 6 October, 1946. He played for England 58 times and captained his adopted country 14 times. He was the first English player to score 3,000 runs and take 100 wickets. His excellent slip work yielded 87 catches. Greig's England test career ended in controversy when it became known that he was recruiting for Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. He emigrated to Australia where he carved out two extremely successful careers, as an executive in the Packer organisation and a cricket commentator. He died aged 66 on 29 December, 2012 after a heart attack.

Early Years

Tony Greig grew up in South Africa surrounded by sport and proved to be adept at three in particular, tennis, rugby and cricket. In fact at his school, Queen's College, Queenstown, he was captain for all three sports, representing the South African Schools' XI twice at cricket and Border schools at rugby. It was during a tennis game at the age of 14 that he collapsed after suffering an epileptic attack. Fearing at first that any chance of representative sports honours had been dashed, he decided to continue with his burgeoning cricket career when it became clear that he could control his epilepsy with medication.

He attracted the attention of Sussex County Cricket Club who offered him a trial. Sussex picked him out because they sent players over to South Africa every year who coached at the college and saw this 6ft 7in schoolboy of rare talent. First appearing in 1966 he scored a century in each innings of his first match against Cambridge University. Naturally his full county debut was marked by a century against Lancashire!

After three years of county cricket he was picked for the England v Rest of the World 'test matches' that replaced the series against his native South Africa in 1970. The decision to remove them from official test match status bemused Greig who described them as the highest standard of cricket he had ever played in. The same fate befell his appearances for Rest of the World v Australia in 1971-2. By then, however, England had seen enough and he was picked for his adopted country in 1972.

England Years

The pattern of instant impacts was continued in the 1st Test v Australia at Old Trafford in 1972. He made 57 and 62 and took 5 for 74 to pick up man of the match honours. His attacking style was a breath of fresh air for the England team and the England supporters who were used to attritional contests where 200 runs, or less, in a day was not uncommon. Greig relished contests with Australia where he could measure himself against the best cricketers in the world at the time. He played the game in the same hard, uncompromising manner, and earned their respect, if not their affection. His England career contained many highlights, but they all had one thing in common. His best performances came when England really needed them.

In 1973-4 Tony Greig toured the West Indies with England and showed the entire cricket world what he was capable of. His sensational record of 430 runs and 24 wickets in five tests contained a string of breathtaking performances.

His first contribution to the series, however, was to spark a controversy that set the tone for this volatile all-rounder. Greig bowled the last ball of the day to Julien who played it back down the pitch. Alvin Kallicharan, the non-striker saw Greig field the ball and walked off towards the dressing room. Impetuously Greig threw the ball at the stumps and appealed for a run out. The appeal was upheld and the uproar started. After many hurried conversations England withdrew the appeal, much to Greig's annoyance. It wasn't the last run-in he had with the West Indies!

After a quiet 2nd test Greig dominated the rest of the series. He scored 148 in the 3rd test coupled with 6 wickets in the home side's first innings - the first English player to score a century and take 5 wickets in an innings in the same match. He scored another century in a rain-hit 4th test then surpassed himself in the 5th test. England needed to win to level the series, and Greig bowled England to victory by 26 runs with figures of 8-86 and 5-70. These remain the best ever bowling figures by an Englishman against the West Indies.

During this series Greig experimented with quick off-breaks after deciding that his usual medium pace would be severely dealt with. It proved to be an inspired move, and it gave him the most successful series of his career. His bowling remained useful, coming on at second or third change, but after the switch back to medium pace he never achieved the same level of success. It is possible that a permanent change to off-break bowling could have made him an even more useful bowler, instead of just the partnership breaker that he became at test match level.

The following winter he faced the raw pace of Lillee and Thompson which reduced the English batsmen to wrecks. Characteristically Greig went on the attack and hit a magnificent 110. He saw that both bowlers were prone to inaccuracy when they were wound-up so he started to signal his own fours!! It worked, and although he didn't have a great series he did more than anyone else to keep England going.

In 1975 he replaced Mike Denness as England captain after a disastrous 1st test. Greig was one of the few English players to come out of the match with any credit. He was a popular choice with the press, even if the authorities were still suspicious of him. His first act as captain raised more than a few eyebrows, when he insisted on the selection of David Steele. His decision was marvellously vindicated by the man of the series, not to mention BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.

His next brush with controversy came before the home series with the West Indies when he was interviewed on Sportsnight. He said that the West Indies were a great team, but when they were down they tended to grovel, and he intended to make them grovel. The press had a field day with the remark. He was portrayed as this big racist South African who wanted to put non-whites in their place. It was tremendously damaging to him on a personal basis. His father rang him up from South Africa, not with words of comfort, but with an irate enquiry as to whether he had ever looked in a dictionary! Clive Lloyd used the remark to fire up a great team and they won a five-test series 3-0.

Even with all this going on Tony Greig still managed to put in one astonishing batting performance. In the fourth test at Headingley he hit 116 in the first innings, and, in one of his best performances, a brilliant 76 not out where he ran out of partners despite an heroic 45-minute duck by Alan Ward.

His last series as England captain brought him a rare 3-1 win over India in India. It was also marked by a rare display of diplomacy where he praised a country that was used to vilification by visiting players. His words won him cult status in India where he was received warmly by all the fanatical crowds. His last test century was an epic display where, suffering from illness, he batted for an entire day to rescue England from a parlous position. His next test match, and his last as England captain, was the legendary centenary test against Australia. After the test he was to have a life-changing meeting with Kerry Packer.

Packer Years

Despite rumours to the contrary Tony Greig was unaware of the impending schism when he played his last match as England captain, in March 1977. He arranged a meeting with Kerry Packer, who owned Channel 9 in Australia in order to safeguard his post-cricket career. He saw the commentary box as a career option, and wanted to let Packer know of his interest. It turned out that Packer wanted Greig to act as his agent for World Series Cricket.

Packer had recently made a (AUS) $1.5million bid for the rights to Test and Sheffield shield cricket, which the Australian authorities rejected. When this happened he decided to make the authorities sit up and take notice. He recruited respected commentator Richie Benaud as his adviser on cricket matters. A number of innovations introduced at the time such as coloured clothing and night cricket remain popular to this day. Packer recruited the best cricketing talent available thereby making his product the best on the market. He did this by paying five or six times more than the national cricket boards would pay. When Greig examined WSC in detail he realised that the long term effect would be to help the average county cricketer to make a decent living out of the game. He was intelligent enough to know that there would be consequences in terms of test cricket, and maybe even first class cricket. His father told him not to rely on security of tenure as England captain so he had no doubts on a personal score, but it caused him some regrets as he saw the job as the ultimate honour. He agreed to work for Packer and proceeded to sign up players from England and South Africa to play for WSC.

The authorities at Lords found out and stripped him of the captaincy. A final series in 1977 against Australia was a muted swansong for this talented cricketer. The establishment had never taken to this brash aggressive character, and they had a field day as they used every opportunity to attack him.

He even appeared in court to support the players he had signed up, when the authorities threatened to ban them from all forms of cricket for their decision. The witness stand was an ordeal as gruelling as any bowling attack that Greig had faced, but in typical style he refused to back down. The cricketers won their case and for Alan Knott, Derek Underwood and many Australian and West Indian players a test recall was their ultimate reward. For Greig the punishment was the loss of many friends, an attempt by the press to downplay his cricketing achievements and the spiteful decision by the MCC to withdraw the invitation to join their club. He remains, to this day the only England captain not to be a member of the MCC.

This vilification didn't affect Tony himself until his daughter was the only child in the class left off of the invitation list for a party. At that point he realised that his future lay elsewhere. Following three further years of county cricket Tony Greig retired from cricket and emigrated to Australia in 1980. He stayed there until his death in 2012, making trenchant comments from the press box and occasionally stirring up controversy in typical Tony Greig style.

Career Overview

Tony Greig's figures at test level bear comparison with any of the great all-rounders of the last 30 years. His big match temperament gave him a career record that is an impressive testament to his great talent.

  • Test Matches - 58

  • Batting - Innings 93 Runs 3599 Average 40.43

  • Bowling - Runs conceded 4541 Wickets 141 Average 32.20

  • Fielding - Catches 87

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