At the home of cricket next Tuesday a rebel of the game will finally achieve a form of restoration.
Tony Greig, scourge of the establishment, will deliver this year's MCC Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket lecture at Lord's. It is 35 years since Greig, the captain of England, shocked the blazers by announcing that he was chief recruiting officer for the breakaway World Series Cricket. The recriminations and court cases rocked the game. Greig's status and position in the English game can hardly be overstated. Not only was he skipper but a genuine star, blond, 6ft 8in tall and charismatic. He was stripped of the captaincy, by the end of the seminal 1977 season his international career was over and he has never been forgiven. Nor has he ever had his due as an inspirational leader and fearsomely accomplished all-rounder who in Tests averaged 40.44 with the bat and 32.21 with the ball. The honour of delivering the 12th Spirit of Cricket Lecture is not before time. It has probably come now only because it was in the gift of Phillip Hodson, this year's MCC president and Greig's brother-in-law. It will be fascinating to hear if Greig alludes to his actions of 35 years ago which caused a schism. While it was widely felt that he had betrayed his position there is no doubt that World Series Cricket, set up by the Australian media mogul Kerry Packer in a row over broadcasting rights, led to vastly improved conditions for cricketers. Greig remains proud of this, not least because he pointed it out at the time. The MCC Lecture is hardly a homecoming but it is a rapprochement.
Wrong, what Fred said
Andrew Flintoff's unfortunate comments about his fellow Lancashire and England cricketer Michael Atherton were not wholly surprising. They have never exactly been soul-mates, though it is also true that the strength of Flintoff's criticism, several times referring to Atherton as a prick, was unexpected. Almost all comments on social networking sites supported Atherton, who has risen above the fray by declining to comment either on air or in print – he is a Sky commentator and cricket correspondent of The Times. Flintoff (pictured) stated and restated his opinion at a Sky gathering. But it has done his stock no good at all. He has all but withdrawn from the game that made him and this will hasten that process. It has been suggested that Flintoff may have been intimidated by Atherton's intellectual prowess but when the pair played chess years ago on tour it was Flintoff who prevailed.
Who needs neutral umpires?
The new ICC panel of elite umpires has been revealed. Nigel Llong's promotion gives England three on the list as he joins Ian Gould and Richard Kettleborough. There are three Australians, two Pakistanis, two New Zealanders and one from South Africa and Sri Lanka. Neutral umpires have undoubtedly been a success. But the day may not be far off when the concept is deemed to be outdated and the best umpires stand in any match.
Windies wind up in Florida
So farewell to West Indies after their 21st tour of England. It has not proceeded as well as was expected but they have new territories to conquer. They leave tomorrow for the US, where they will play two Twenty20s against New Zealand next weekend. Full houses are expected in Lauderhill, Florida, whence 17 per cent of residents emigrated from Jamaica.