Angus Fraser: Jousts with Lawry in commentary box were great advert
A Personal View: I managed to get my greedy hands on a pair of SP all-in-one gloves
Sunday 30 December 2012
As I sit here at home contemplating the extremely sad departure of Tony Greig, the only strong vision I have of him playing cricket is when he had his stumps rearranged by a vicious Michael Holding yorker at The Oval in 1976. The dismissal became the image of one of cricket's biggest faux pas after Greig, the then England captain, had controversially said that he intended to make West Indies "grovel" during the 1976 Test series.
I was only 11 at the time but Greig must have had a major impact on me, because when I was young I endlessly nagged my parents to buy me the same kit as him. They eventually relented and I remember my first proper cricket bat being a St Peter Flatback.
A few months later, I also managed to get my greedy hands on a pair of the innovative SP all-in-one wrap-around gloves too. Sadly, my batting never lived up to the quality of the gear I wore.
Greig has been a huge figure in the game of cricket and he will be greatly missed. He may not have been looked at fondly by everyone in cricket because of some of the things he said and did, but for me he gave more to the game than he took. As well as being an outstanding all-rounder, Greig was a trailblazer. A big, brash swashbuckling cricketer who said what he thought and gave it to you straight. If you didn't like what he said, that was your problem, not his. He knew his worth, too.
Greig's involvement in the England cricket team paved the way for others with South African roots, such as Allan Lamb, Robin Smith, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott. Pietersen may currently be a contentious figure in English cricket but compared to Greig he is still attending infant school.
Many cricket administrators have never forgiven Greig for his involvement in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. Luring England players to play lucrative matches in Australia was seen by many as a betrayal, even though it has since become apparent that his actions were ultimately very good for players, spectators and the game as a whole. There is an irony to the lack of forgiveness shown to Greig, in that some of the English administrators who made him unwelcome were more than happy to accommodate players who went on rebel tours of South Africa during apartheid.
This hostility, and his involvement with Packer, encouraged Greig to settle in Australia. And it was there, commentating for Channel 9, that he again had a huge influence on me. Over the past 25 years I have adored Greig's commentary. When he was at work I would stop what I was doing and listen. Behind the microphone he may not have always been politically correct, but listening to him describe the action was a magnificent experience. The combination of endless enthusiasm and a huge knowledge of the game, along with a great voice and a sense of mischief, made it a must-listen period.
My first tour as an England player was to the West Indies in 1990. It also happened to be the first England tour covered by Sky Sports, and Greig was one of the commentators. When I occasionally look back at videos of those matches it is always pleasing to hear him excitedly describing wickets I took. He found pronouncing the names of English players easier than those of Sri Lanka, a country whose cricketing identity he did a great deal to promote. At times he made no effort to pronounce Muttiah Muralitharan correctly, but that was part of the fun.
His great pal in the commentary box was Bill Lawry, the former Australia batsman. Lawry was as dour a batsman as any to have played the game, but when he and Greig got together behind the microphone it was sensational. An energy was transmitted through the screen, and a sense of theatre that few pairings have been able to replicate. The relationship was that of a couple of mates bickering, and neither would allow the other to have the last word.
There have been so many colourful and humorous exchanges that will have done as much to sell cricket to youngsters as any advertising campaign. I find it hard to believe there has been a better commentating partnership.
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