London – Former England captains Ian Botham and Nasser Hussain have led the tributes to their late predecessor Tony Greig, who died on Saturday at the age of 66.
The South Africa-born Greig, a swashbuckling middle-order batsman and medium-fast bowler, passed away at his home in Sydney, two months after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
He had been working as a television commentator in Australia since retiring from cricket in 1979.
Greig became England captain in 1975 and led the national team for two years before leaving to help launch the controversial World Series Cricket (WSC) tournament created by late Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer.
His defection created a storm, but Hussain, England captain from 1999 to 2003, said it represented a landmark moment in the sport's evolution.
“It was huge. It was an amateur game before, with players just playing for the love of the game,” Hussain told Sky Sports News.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
All-rounder and former Test captain Botham said: “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.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) also paid tribute to the father of four.
“Tony Greig was an extremely talented all-round cricketer and captain,” said ECB chief executive David Collier.
“He was a giant of a man who played a major role in the changing face of cricket during the 1970s.
“He will be fondly remembered for his informed commentaries, his embracing of innovation to enhance the game including day and night cricket, as well as his performances on the field of play.”
ECB chairman Giles Clarke added: “Tony Greig was a magnificent and fearless cricketer capable of changing games with ball or bat.
“He led England brilliantly in India and rejuvenated the side. He was a determined supporter of players' rights in his later years.”
Present-day England wicketkeeper Matt Prior expressed his sadness on Twitter, writing: “Can't believe one of my heroes Tony Greig has passed away.
“One of the greatest voices in cricket and will be sorely missed.”
Stuart Broad, the captain of England's Twenty20 team, wrote simply: “#RIPTonyGreig”.
Greig played 58 Tests for England between 1972 and 1977, scoring 3,599 runs with eight centuries at 40.43, and captured 141 wickets at 32.20.
He captained England in 14 Tests and also played in 22 one-day internationals. – Sapa-AFP