THE former England cricket captain and veteran Channel Nine commentator Tony Greig has sadly died, aged 66.
Greig, who had a key role in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution and was a distinctive voice in cricket broadcasting, suffered a heart attack at his home on Saturday and was rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital.
‘‘The staff of the emergency department worked on Mr Greig to no avail,’’ a hospital spokesman said.
Greig died about 1.45pm. It is understood he was surrounded by his family.
Greig was diagnosed with lung cancer in October and did not join the Channel Nine commentary team this summer.
After an initial diagnosis of bronchitis in May, Greig had tests in October that revealed a small lesion at the base of his right lung. He had fluid removed from the lung and tests revealed he had lung cancer.
Last month, he spoke to the Channel Nine commentary team during their coverage of the first Test between Australia and South Africa in Brisbane. He was candid about the disease, saying, ‘‘It’s not good. The truth is I’ve got lung cancer. Now it’s a case of what they can do.’’ He had an operation later that month.
Richie Benaud, the iconic former Australian captain and doyen of cricket commentary, was told of Greig’s death by the Nine chief executive, David Gyngell. Benaud then broke the news to rest of the commentary team.
Benaud paid tribute to his long-time colleague. ‘‘The main thing I found is that he was the most entertaining commentator to work with … Tony always had a slightly different angle.’’
He described Greig as a dynamic cricketer, a fearless thinker and an entertainer. ‘‘I found him a fellow full of courage, that was before he was ill. He was full of courage because of many things that had happened to him in his cricket life and his outside life as well.’’ The last time Benaud spoke to Greig he was determined to beat his illness. ‘‘He was very upbeat about it and said, ‘I’m going to knock this thing off,’ and he wasn’t able to do it. So it’s first of all a shock and then sorrow particularly for Tony but for Viv and the … kids as well.’’
Fellow commentator Bill Lawry said: ‘‘World cricket has lost one of its best known figures. He’ll be greatly missed right around the world. It’s not only the fact that he was a great all-round cricketer but because he was a great personality as well.’’
Born in Queenstown, South Africa, Greig 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 qualified to play for England through Scottish parentage.
He was a key figure in recruiting international players for World Series Cricket which began in 1977, but his controversial involvement cost him his England captaincy and his 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. The network 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. Nine had ‘‘lost part of its extensive cricketing DNA’’.
‘‘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.”
In the statement, Vivian Grieg said, ‘‘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.’’
Writer John Birmingham perhaps best summed up the sentiment of Grieg’s many fans on Twitter with the comment:
‘‘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*’’
Tony Grieg was larger-than-life, both figuratively and literally. He was chirpy, larrikin, good natured, and generous. It seems, does it not, that the best often die tragically young? Anyhow, he will be sadly missed by anyone who loved cricket, and who admired his professionalism.
He brought his cheerful determination to everything he did.
It is not generally known, for example, that he was a lifelong sufferer from epilepsy, including once collapsing during a game. A friendly media and cricket establishment managed to get the story reported as heatstroke. His achievements, in that regard, are even more remarkable.
Safe paths, big fella.
(SMH and others)