Tributes paid to 'great England captain' Tony Greig

TONY GREIG

TONY GREIG

First published in International

Tony Greig, who died today aged 66, has been credited with revolutionising the game of cricket .

Greig, a right-handed middle-order batsman and medium-fast seamer, passed away at his home in Sydney this morning after suffering a heart attack. He had been fighting lung cancer for more than two months.

He replaced Mike Denness as England captain in the summer of 1975 and led the national team from 1975-77 before defecting to be one of the spearheads of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket.

Nasser Hussain, who captained England between 1999 and 2003, hailed Greig for ushering in a new era of ''dramatic'' cricket.

South Africa-born Greig's decision to join Packer's World Series Cricket may have been controversial in some quarters, but Hussain believes its popularity shaped the development of the modern game.

He said: ''It was huge. It was an amateur game before with players just playing for the love of the game.

''But because of Tony Greig and Kerry Packer and the World Series, suddenly the world realised that they had to start paying their cricketers.

''One-day cricket became much more dramatic with the coloured clothing and the white balls and another form of cricket was invented.

''In those Packer years the cricketing world was in absolute uproar and no-one really knew where to turn and luckily everyone bought into this new form of the game.

''Television became very interested because the cricket they saw was much more exciting than some of the cricket that went on before.

''The establishment had to follow as interest in the game grew because of what he achieved. He was the sort of guy that didn't take a backward step against anybody.

''He was a dramatic sort of guy with the blond locks and his collar up. He took on cricketers and oppositions.

''He was very brave, he did take people on and wasn't someone who would just go with the norm. He wasn't establishment.

''He was a great England captain and he transformed the game. It is very sad news and very sudden news as well.''

Ex-England bowler and current commentator Bob Willis admitted he had not originally been onside with the Packer project but soon changed his mind.

He said: ''It was a torrid time back in 1977.

''People took very entrenched positions and it wasn't very pleasant being a Packer player in county cricket.

''But I think some of us realised our mistakes in taking up those positions and we knew that we would be much stronger for the introduction of World Series Cricket.''

When asked if agreed with Hussain's assessment that Greig had revolutionised the game, Willis was quick to concur.

''Very much so,'' he added. ''He had a tremendous effect on my own career. He persuaded me to get really, really fit with long-distance running and that totally revolutionised my career.

''I never had another injury and went on to take over 300 Test wickets. It's a very, very sad day for cricket. Sixty-six is no sort of innings.''

All-rounder and former Test captain Sir Ian Botham added: ''He was my first-ever captain for England. I'm very sad and very emotional.

''He was flamboyant and extroverted, faster than light and he made things happen. He was an amazing guy and so full of energy.

''He changed cricket for everybody as we know it now. The game suddenly leaped forward and players started to paid more substantial amounts.

''He revolutionised the game and it had to be done. The players of today have a lot to be thankful for in Tony and Kerry Packer.''

South Africa-born Australia coach Mickey Arthur posted on Twitter: ''RIP-Tony Greig. A very good man!'' while Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore tweeted: ''Deepest sympathies to his family. Great man, great career. He will be missed.''

Former Australia paceman Glenn McGrath also took to Twitter to express his sadness, writing: ''My thoughts are with Tony Greig's family today. RIP Tony Greig''.

England all-rounder Luke Wright posted: ''Gutted to hear that Tony Greig has passed away. A legend on and off the field. Our thoughts are with his family and friends £RIPGreigy.''

Channel Nine chief executive David Gyngell said in a statement: ''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.

''He's not only been part of our family, but he's had a seat at the head of the table.''

Greig's wife Vivian said in a 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.''

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