SA-born cricket captain, Greig, dies

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IOL news dec29 tony greig Getty Images File photo of Tony Greig in London in 1977.

South African-born former England captain and cricket commentator Tony Greig died Saturday of a heart attack at the age of 66 as he battled what appeared to be incurable lung cancer.

The Sydney-based Greig was initially diagnosed with bronchitis in May, but the condition lingered and in October he had tests that revealed a small lesion at the base of his right lung.

On Saturday, he suffered a heart attack at his Sydney home.

“He was rushed into St Vincent's Hospital. The staff of the emergency department worked on Mr. Greig to no avail.” hospital spokesman David Faktort said.

Upon his return to Australia from the World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka, he had fluid removed from the right lung and testing revealed the cancer.

“It's not good,” Greig said after the surgery. “The truth is I've got lung cancer. Now it's a case of what they can do.”

A confident and occasionally abrasive character, Greig reveled in the on-field contest and at times stirring up crowds, such as during the 1974-75 Ashes series.

CHARISMATIC FIGURE

Standing 1.96 meters with a shock of blond hair, Greig was an imposing and charismatic figure whose strong performances and ability to bond the team earned him the England captaincy. He played 58 tests for England and scored 3,599 runs at an average of 40.43 and took 141 wickets at 32.20.

Greig was a key figure in recruiting international players for Kerry Packer's anti-establishment World Series Cricket which began in 1977, the year Greig played his last test for England.

In the 1980s Greig became a high-profile member of the commentary team for Australia's Nine Network and his decades behind the microphone made him an institution in Australia's sporting life.

Nine 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 colorful and expert commentary,” Nine said.

ABRUPT END TO CAREER

Greig's involvement in WSC caused an abrupt end to his international cricket career.

“When the enterprise was made public, his stocks plummeted,” cricket writer Gideon Haigh wrote on the cricinfo website.

“He lost not just England's captaincy, but what would have been a record-breaking benefit.

“He was diminished, too, by his indifferent on-field performances in World Series Cricket, where he seemed to cast himself as pantomime villain.

“Nonetheless, subsequent generations of professional cricketers owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Tributes began appearing on social media almost immediately.

Current Australia coach, South African Mickey Arthur, said on Twitter: “RIP-Tony Greig.A very good man!”

England wicketkeeper Matt Prior said: “Can't believe one of my heroes Tony Greig has passed away. One of the greatest voices in cricket and will be sorely missed.”

Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore, a former Australian test batsman, said: “Just landed in chennai and learnt of Tony Greig's passing. Deepest sympathies to his family. Great man, great career. He will be missed.” -Sapa-AP


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