Tony Greig – a great mate

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    Australian Prime Minister John Howard, right, talks with former England cricket Captain Tony Greig, left, and former Australain Captain Bill Lawry at London's Lords cricket ground Thursday June 19, 1997. (AP Photo/Max Nash)

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    Tony Greig’s sudden death yesterday at the age of 66 is gut-wrenching. I first met the genial giant of 6’6″ at the start of the Rest of the World tour of Australia in the 1971-72 season.

    Rain was pelting down at the MCG during the first day of the tour opener against the Victorians, so play was called off early.

    I rang Tony’s room at the hotel for an interview for the Sydney Sun and in his easy-going way he said, “Come on down”.

    I knocked on his door and a deep voice invited me in. My first sight were two huge bare feet, and that was all I could see of Tony Greig.

    Then he unfurled with a grin as huge as his feet, and it seemed forever until he stood erect.

    That was the start of a friendship that lasted 41 years.

    It was South African-born Tony’s first tour and he made no secret of the fact he was going to use it to the full to book a berth in the Test side for his adopted England, where he qualified through Scottish parentage.

    We had a lot in common with our passion for cricket and a good few beers. There were many times over the next few years we were late to bed, but never a moment was wasted.

    And I got to know the big bloke so well after writing two books for him. The first about his life, the second about the best cricketers he had played against, giving a run-down on each before he selected a World XI.

    Fascinating reading.

    Add to that ghosting a regular newspaper column for him, so I was in constant contact with Anthony William Greig and there was never a dull moment.

    But the most fascinating were the 14 hours we spent together in Adelaide behind closed doors in early 1978, putting together a peace proposal for Kerry Packer and the Australian Cricket Board to end the war over World Series Cricket.

    While both parties saw the merit in what we suggested, both were too pig-headed at the time to act on it. In the wash-up both signed off on peace over 12 months later with exactly what Tony and I had proposed.

    That’s what genuine friendship really meant. Tony and I were in opposite camps over WSC, but we could still be close mates. Many friendships were shattered in that period, the most notable Sir Donald Bradman and Richie Benaud.

    I will never forget his passion for everything, but more especially his cricket and his friendship.

    He was a man for the big occasion.

    In his first county game for Sussex he smashed a quickfire 156.

    In his first Test for England at Old Trafford against the Australians just after the Rest of the World tour, he top-scored in both digs with 57 and 62, and captured 1-21 and 4-53.

    The one wicket was Australian captain Ian Chappell first ball. The four second innings scalps were Keith Stackpole, Doug Walters, and Johnny Gleeson all bowled, and Rod Marsh caught.

    Impressive.

    I could go on all day about Tony’s achievements over 41 years, including his tilts with Ian Chappell through World Series Cricket and in the Channel Nine commentary box.

    Sufficient to say they both had a healthy respect for one another, but were two of the most strong-willed men I’ve ever known.

    Thankfully Chappeli is still with us. But I will miss Tony Greig.

    Big time.

    Thanks for the memories Greigy, many and vivid.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • Roar Guru

      December 30th 2012 @ 6:52am
      biltongbek said | December 30th 2012 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      It is always sad to lose a friend David, hold on to those memories, I loved listening to him whilst watching test cricket, even though most of the times it was a stark reminder of how inferior we were to Australia.

      I wonder how he felt when SA beat Australia for the first time in OZ in 2008.

      • December 30th 2012 @ 8:50am
        David Lord said | December 30th 2012 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        He was stoked biltonbek. Despite all the years he spent in county cricket for Sussex, and playing for England, plus all the years living in Australia playing a season with Waverley in Sydney first grade cricket ad with the Channel Nine commentary team, Tony never lost that South African twang. Great bloke.

        • Roar Guru

          December 30th 2012 @ 3:51pm
          biltongbek said | December 30th 2012 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

          great to hear that, cheers David.

      • December 30th 2012 @ 1:17pm
        Jimmy said | December 30th 2012 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

        [comment deleted]

        • December 30th 2012 @ 1:28pm
          Jason said | December 30th 2012 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

          Who are you talking about?

          • Columnist

            December 30th 2012 @ 2:43pm
            David Lord said | December 30th 2012 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

            Jason, don’t worry about Jimmy, there’s always some nark in every group. Jimmy has just shot himself in the foot, and he’ll probably aim higher shortly.

        • December 30th 2012 @ 3:16pm
          Bondy. said | December 30th 2012 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

          I dont think thats called for here. Low act.

    • Roar Guru

      December 30th 2012 @ 8:02am
      Rabbitz said | December 30th 2012 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      Hi David,

      My sincerest condolences to you, and to all that knew him.

      As a kid during the WSC days Tony Grieg was the first sporting figure I learned to “Love to Hate” in that strange admiring way. I was always fearful when he strode out to bat for the “Rest of the World”, and I was on the edge of my seat when he had ball in hand.

      Like many he became one of those indelible sounds of summer, as much a part of summer for me, as the cicada, waves breaking and sun burn. You knew it wasn’t long until the summer break when you first heard him sparring with Bill Lawry on the TV.

      Vale Tony and thanks for the memories.

    • Roar Guru

      December 30th 2012 @ 9:29am
      sheek said | December 30th 2012 @ 9:29am | ! Report

      David,

      That was a lovely tribute to Tony Greig, so thank you for sharing those memories.

      I remember the first test of the 1974/75 Ashes series in Brisbane. Australia batted first & recovered to 309. The English bowlers were “bullish,” believing the returning Dennis Lillee was no longer as fast as before his back injury, while the hype around Jeff Thomson was overblown.

      The emboldened Greig & Peter Lever were the two English pace men to start the bumper war, Greig particularly targeting old foe Lillee.

      When it came England’s turn to bat they quickly realised their mistake. While Lillee was still slowly working his way back to top pace, he was still brisk, but Thommo was deadly lethal.

      In the Shield match immediately prior to the test, Thommo had been under strict instructions not to bowl above three-quarter pace. But in the test he came in full pelt. By the end of this test the English batsmen were already battered & bruised. yet there were five more tests to play!

      Greig, to his enormous credit, showed tremendous courage to counter-attack & topped England’s of 265 with 110. Throughout the series he was England’s most consistent batsman.

      Australia set up the win in their second innings, while England collapsed under the pace onslaught, Thommo claiming 6-46 & nine wickets for the match.

      The enduring image is Greig being clean bowled by Thommo for two in the second innings by what came to be known as the ‘sandshoe toecrusher’ – a beautifully fast yorker that slipped under Greig’s bat & nearly crushed his toe as he frantically got his foot out of the way, before the ball sent the middle wicket cart-wheeling backwards.

      We’ll all miss Greigy. I particularly enjoyed his prematch pitch reports. Not to mention the futuristic technology of the moisture determining car key sticking into the pitch.

      • December 30th 2012 @ 6:15pm
        Jason Cave said | December 30th 2012 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

        The other top innings from Tony Greig was in India on England 1976-77 tour of India, as a lead-up to the Centenary Test against Australia in Melbourne.

        After winning the first Test, Greig was concerned that hs England side wasn’t focusing properly on the 2nd Test at Eden Gardens, for two reasons: 1) the Christmas/New Year period where the Englishmen decided to ‘let their hair down’ rather than preparing for a vital Test match; and 2) England might have been complacent because they didn’t think India would beat them, but Greig thought otherwise having been in a similar position on a previous tour where England won the first Test but lost the series.

        So Greig decided to give his team a pre-match blast.

        The address by Greig worked.

        England went on to win the game wth Greig making 103-possibly the most important innings he has played while captain of England.

    • December 30th 2012 @ 10:03am
      Bondy. said | December 30th 2012 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      Nice peice Lordy a sad day for Australian sport. Athough younger than yourself and Sheek I always saw the likes of Tony inparticular Tony as pioneering or benchmarking professional sport/s thruoghout the Commonwealth on all fronts and not just cricket.

    • December 30th 2012 @ 10:26am
      ken oldman said | December 30th 2012 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      Great tribute and lovely comments.
      Kind of makes,all our varied opinions on ‘rotation’ and other cricket issues of recent days.somewhat insignificant and so trivial.
      Great cricketeers they were in the days ot Tony Greig.
      R.I.P…Tony

    • December 30th 2012 @ 10:35am
      Christo the Daddyo said | December 30th 2012 @ 10:35am | ! Report

      While he was a good, rather than exceptional player, it will be for other reasons Tony Greig will be remembered as one of the most significant figures in cricketing history.

      His involvement in WSC primarily, but also for his pioneering adoption of protective headgear will see him as a pivotal person in world cricket.

      And perhaps a car key could be buried in a pitch somewhere in a fitting tribute!

      • December 30th 2012 @ 11:24am
        Minister for Information for the Democratic People's Republic of Football said | December 30th 2012 @ 11:24am | ! Report

        I’m sure the burial patch will get the car key test prior to his interring. Someone’s gotta do it ! R.I.P. Tony, the world lost someone special yesterday.

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