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Vale Tony Greig

Posted by: Staff writers | 29 December, 2012 - 6:14 PM
Tony Greig

4BC News: Former England captain and cricket commentator Tony Greig has died after suffering a heart attack. He was 66.

Greig had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, but he suffered a heart attack at his home on Saturday morning and died about 1.45pm (AEDT).

"He was rushed into St Vincent's hospital. The staff of the emergency department worked on Mr Greig to no avail," St Vincent's spokesman David Faktor said.

He said it's understood his family were with him when he died.

The Sydney-based, South Africa-born 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.

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

He spoke last month of his battle.

"It's not good. The truth is I've got lung cancer. Now it's a case of what they can do," Greig told Nine at the time.

His wife Vivian on Saturday said: "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."

Nine Network boss David Gyngell was among the first to pay tribute to Greig on Saturday.

"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," Gyngell said.

"Tony has been part of Nine's commentary team since 1979. He's not only been part of our family, but he's had a seat at the head of the table."

An abrasive character who loved stirring up Aussie crowds during the 1974-75 Ashes series, Greig played 58 Tests and boasted a handy all-around record of 3599 runs at 40.43 and 141 wickets at 32.20.

Greig was a key figure in recruiting English and other international players for media tycoon Kerry Packer's breakaway World Series Cricket which was staged from 1977 to 1979 and sent shockwaves through the arch-conservative sport.

Packer's rebel series was his response to the Australian Cricket Board's refusal to give Packer's Nine Network exclusive Test broadcast rights.

WSC helped improve remunerations for players and dragged the sport into the modern age of day-night matches.

In the 1980s, Greig became a high-profile member of the Nine Network's cricket commentary team and continued in the role until ill health sidelined him only a couple of months ago.

"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 colourful and expert commentary," Nine said.

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

"He lost not just England's captaincy, but what would have been a record-breaking benefit," respected cricket writer Gideon Haigh wrote on the cricinfo website.

"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."

Former Australian pace bowler Glenn McGrath, South African native and current Australian coach Mickey Arthur were among those to pay tribute to Greig on Twitter on Saturday.

"RIP-Tony Greig. A very good man!", Arthur said.

Reactions to Greig's passing

Test captain Michael Clarke: "I was only speaking with Tony a couple of days ago so news of his passing is absolutely devastating. Tony has a long and decorated history with international cricket both as a player and commentator and cricket will be much poorer for his loss. Personally, he has also been a great mentor for me, providing great advice through the good times and the bad."

Former Australian wicketkeeper Rod Marsh said on ABC: "I don't know as a player whether he was an icon. I think in some ways he'll be remembered more for his commentary in Australia. I don't think that is a bad thing to say about him because he was very special as a commentator. He got the place alive and working, that Channel 9 commentary box. He loved the game and he served the game very well."

Former Prime Minister and self-confessed cricket tragic John Howard told Nine: "He would always as a former English captain have a bit of a jab at the Australians. That was all part of the spirit in which the game has always been played."

Former Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee: "Tony was a tough opponent who took on all opposition with aggression and a determination to win. We will not forget the way he stirred the viewers in a similar vein to the way he did to opposition teams."

James Packer in a statement: "Apart from his considerable talents as a cricketer and then a commentator, (Greig) played an absolutely pivotal role in the success of World Series Cricket, which changed the game forever for the better. Tony stood shoulder to shoulder with my father at times when it was not always fashionable."

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."

Former Australia wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist on Triple M radio: "Horrible, frightening news. It's just such a shock. The cricketing community in particular will be hit very hard by this."

Channel Nine chief executive David Gyngell 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."

Former Australian pace bowler Glenn McGrath said on Twitter: "My thoughts are with Tony Greig's family today. RIP Tony Greig"

South Africa-born England player Matt Prior said on Twitter: "Can't believe one of my heroes Tony Greig has passed away. One of the greatest voices in cricket and will be sorely missed."

Australian coach, South Africa-born Mickey Arthur said on Twitter: "RIP-Tony Greig. A very good man!"

Pakistan coach and former Australian Test batsman Dav Whatmore said on Twitter: "Just landed in chennai and learnt of Tony Greig's passing. Deepest sympathies to his family. Great man, great career. He will be missed."

Kerry O'Keeffe, former Australia player, former WSC player, ABC Radio commentator said on Twitter: "Vale Tony Greig..a good man ..a strong man..a trailblazer..a crash hat wearer. Pitch reporters have lost their patron ..summer is poorer."

Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards said in a statement: "He was a combative on-field rival of Australian cricket but became one of Australian cricket's firmest friends, with his long-running role as a Channel Nine commentator making him an Australian household name."

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