Former England captain and respected commentator Tony Greig, one of the architects of cricket’s World Series revolution in the 1970s, has died at the age of 66 after suffering a heart attack at his Sydney home yesterday.
Greig, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in October, was taken to a Sydney hospital, but died at about 1:45pm.
“The staff of the emergency department worked on Mr Greig to no avail,” a spokesman at St Vincent’s hospital told local media.
A larger-than-life figure standing 1.98m, South Africa-born Greig played 58 Tests for England from 1972 to 1977, scoring 3,599 runs at an average of 40.43 and claiming 141 wickets.
His biggest impact on the game, however, came after he joined forces with late Australian businessman Kerry Packer to set up the breakaway World Series Cricket (WSC) competition.
Media magnate Packer’s concept, aimed at securing cricket broadcast rights for his Channel Nine in Australia, shook up the game’s world order by pioneering limited overs matches played at night and turning cricketers into full-time professionals.
Greig lent credibility to WSC and played a key role in recruiting players for the competition.
“He influenced all those guys from overseas, certainly, and the West Indies to join World Series Cricket and it was great for cricket what he had done,” former Australia batsman Doug Walters, who played in WSC, told Sky News.
“Greig was one of the great competitors of cricket ... He was someone that really took the fight to Australia, but he took the fight to everybody,” Walters said. “Win, lose or draw he was the first guy in our dressing room with a couple of beers in his hands.”
Greig’s recruitment to WSC’s cause put him at loggerheads with cricket’s conservative establishment and he was stripped of the England captaincy in 1977. His international career ended shortly after.
A long-time resident Down Under, Greig later became a cricket commentator with Channel Nine, having been promised a “job for life” by Packer.
A combative and occasionally abrasive character, Greig’s booming voice and signature white hat featured on Australian television screens for over three decades, but his battle with cancer prevented him from taking his position behind the microphone for the current season.