Former England cricket captain and veteran Channel Nine commentator Tony Greig has died after suffering a heart attack. He was 66.
Greig, who played a senior role in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution and was a distinctive voice in cricket broadcasting, was diagnosed with lung cancer in October. He suffered a heart attack at his home on Saturday morning and died at about 1.45pm (AEDT).
"He was rushed into St Vincent’s hospital. The staff of the emergency department worked on Mr Greig to no avail," St Vincent’s spokesman David Faktor said. It is understood his family were with him when he died.
Greig's wife released the following statement: "Our family wants to extend our gratitude for the support and condolences we have received and would ask for privacy at this very sad time."
Greig first became aware he had a problem during Australia’s one-day series against Pakistan in Dubai in August and September.
Initially diagnosed with bronchitis in May, the condition lingered and, by the time of the ICC World Twenty20 that finished in Sri Lanka in October, Greig had tests that revealed a small lesion at the base of his right lung.
On his return to Australia he had fluid removed from the right lung and testing revealed he had lung cancer.
Greig did not join the Channel Nine commentary team this summer. Last month, he spoke to them during their coverage of the first Test between Australia and South Africa in Brisbane.
Greig was candid about the disease.
"It’s not good. The truth is I’ve got lung cancer. Now it’s a case of what they can do," Greig said.
He had an operation later that month.
Greig was a key figure in recruiting international players for Kerry Packer’s anti-establishment World Series Cricket which began in 1977, the year Greig played his last Test for England.
Packer’s rebel series was his response to the Australian Cricket Board’s refusal to give Packer’s Nine Network exclusive Test broadcast rights. WSC helped improve remunerations for players and dragged the sport into the modern age of day-night matches.
Channel Nine described Greig as a "beloved" figure.
"Tony Greig is a name synonymous with Australian cricket - from his playing days as the English captain we loved to hate, to his senior role in the revolution of World Series Cricket, his infamous car keys in the pitch reports and more than three decades of colourful and expert commentary," a Channel Nine statement said.
Greig’s involvement in WSC caused an abrupt end to his international cricket career.
"When the enterprise was made public, his stocks plummeted," respected cricket writer Gideon Haigh wrote on the cricinfo website.
"He lost not just England’s captaincy, but what would have been a record-breaking benefit.
"He was diminished, too, by his indifferent on-field performances in World Series Cricket, where he seemed to cast himself as pantomime villain.
"Nonetheless, subsequent generations of professional cricketers owe him a debt of gratitude."
Nine Entertainment Company CEO David Gyngell said his network had "lost part of its extensive cricketing DNA" with Greig's passing.
"It’s a deeply upsetting time for his family and for everyone associated with Tony at Nine, and indeed for many, many others who came to know and love the man."Tony has been part of Nine’s commentary team since 1979. He’s not only been part of our family, but he’s had a seat at the head of the table," he said.
"He’s been a great bloke – one of the terrific characters of the game both as a player and then a commentator, never short of an opinion but always a generous man with a big heart. You just cannot say fairer than that."Mr Gyngell said Nine icon Richie Benaud had conveyed the sad news to Tony Greig’s fellow commentators, in particular his dear friend and old sparring partner Bill Lawry.
Greig the cricketer
Born and raised in Queenstown, South Africa, Greig qualified to play cricket for England because of his Scottish parents. He trialled for Sussex in 1965 as a teenager and set himself the goal of representing England, which he did in 58 Tests between 1972 and 1977.
He made his Test debut against Australia at Old Trafford in 1972, making half-centuries in both innings and taking five wickets for the game. He first captained England in a Test against Australia in 1975, but it was during his time as leader, after the 1977 Centenary Test in Melbourne, that he struck a friendship with Packer.
Greig became Packer’s lieutenant for recruiting players to take part in the World Series Cricket break-away, but his involvement cost him his England captaincy and Test career.
For his work and loyalty, Packer promised Greig "a job for life", and Greig did indeed work for the rest of his life as a commentator for Channel Nine.
Greig led England in 14 Tests.
He compiled a formidable record as a Test all-rounder, with 3599 runs at an average of 40.43 including eight centuries, and 141 wickets at an average of 32.20, including one haul of 8-86.
Over an 11-year first-class career he played 350 matches for 16,660 runs and 856 wickets and 190 one-day games (22 of them internationals) for 3899 runs and 244 wickets.
Twitter response to Greig's death
Cricket fans were quick to post their condolences and favourite memories of Greig on Twitter.
Australian Cricketers Association chief executive Paul Marsh said Greig would be remembered as a trailblazer for players’ rights.
"Awfully sad news with Tony Greig’s passing. A significant contributor to players’ rights worldwide and never afraid to speak his mind," Marsh tweeted.
ABC commentator Kerry O’Keefe, a former opponent of Greig’s, posted: "Vale Tony Greig... a good man... a strong man... a trailblazer... a crash hat wearer. Pitch reporters have lost their patron... summer is poorer"
Former Australia batsman Greg Blewett, now a commentator on Fox Sports, tweeted Greig was a "great guy and was always great company", while former Sri Lankan player Russel Arnold, also a commentator, said Greig had been a mentor and friend.
"We will miss you a genuine friend and admirer of SL cricket. It was indeed a pleasure to have known you!", Arnold wrote.
Australian cricketing great Glenn McGrath tweeted: "My thoughts are with Tony Greig’s family today."
Writer John Birmingham summed up the sentiment of many fans at the news of Greig's passing: "That's a big chunk of my childhood trailing along behind Tony Greig as he makes that last long walk back to the pavilion. *Stands. Applauds*"
Former Australian Test player and current Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore said Greig was a "great man".
New South Wales medium-pacer Trent Copeland said the news had left him speechless.
"Had the pleasure of meeting the big man and what a passionate cricket tragic. RIP," he wrote.
Veteran ABC cricket commentator Jim Maxwell said the "very sad and sudden news" of Greig's passing "cuts you to the quick".
He praised Greig for putting his neck on the line for cricketers during World Series Cricket.
"It was a pretty brave call from him to get involved with Kerry Packer..."
He said Greig had a long connection to Australian cricket, and many fans remembered him for standing up to Australia's fearsome pace-bowling tandem of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in the mid-1970s.
Maxwell said some of the things Greig said in his commentary "drove him nuts", but he loved Greig's enthusiasm. He described Greig as a larger than life character who engaged with people.
In extending his condolences to Greig's family, friends and colleagues, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell paid tribute to Greig as "one of the voices of cricket for a generation of Australian cricket supporters"."Tony was a great cricketer and England captain. Despite the stick he got from Australian supporters, we admired his skill and in-your-face attitude."Tony's toughness as a Test cricketer was only matched by the strength he displayed after he was diagnosed with cancer in October."This year's summer of cricket won't be the same with Tony's passing."
Among Australian cricket fans, Greig will be remembered for his abrasive style as a player and his colourful style as a commentator, particularly in some of his memorable stints with colleague Bill Lawry.
As captain of England during the 1970s he sparked outrage when he said he intended to make the West Indies team "grovel".
But in a speech made at Lord’s this year he said he valued the spirit of cricket above everything.
"The spirit of cricket is also about putting the game’s interests before yours or your country’s interests," he said.Greig is survived by his wife, Vivian, and two young children, Beau and Tom, and a son, Mark, and daughter, Sam, from his first marriage. Grieg’s brother, Ian, 57, played two Tests for England and also lives in Australia.
Name: Anthony William GreigBorn: Oct 6 1946, Queenstown, Cape Province, South AfricaAge: 66National team: EnglandBatted: right-handedBowled: right-arm medium-pace and right-arm offspinHeight: 198cmTests: 58Debut: 1972Last Test: 1977Runs: 3599 at an average of 40.43Wickets: 141 at 32.20Post-playing career: After playing a key role in establishing Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket in Australia in the late 1970s, Greig worked as a high-profile cricket commentator on Packer’s Nine Network for over three decades, famously arguing constantly with former Australian captain Bill Lawry and sticking his car key into the pitch before each match to assess its moisture content.
smh.com.au, with Will Brodie and AAP