Tony Greig, the South Africa-born cricketer who became England captain and later continued to make his mark on the game as a revered commentator in Australia, died on Saturday of a heart attack as he battled what appeared to be incurable lung cancer.
The Sydney-based Greig, 66, 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.
“He will be much missed in cricketing circles both in this country and around the world and we send our sympathies and condolences to Vivian and his family”
Chief Exec of ECB David Collier
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.
His wife, Vivian, said on Saturday: “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.”
A confident and occasionally abrasive character, Greig revelled in the on-field contest and at times stirring up crowds, such as during the 1974-75 Ashes series.
Standing 6-foot-6 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 -14 as captain – and scored 3,599 runs at an average of 40.43 and took 141 wickets at 32.20.
“He was a giant of a man who played a major role in the changing face of cricket during the 1970s,” said David Collier, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
“He will be much missed in cricketing circles both in this country and around the world and we send our sympathies and condolences to Vivian and his family.”
Australia Test captain Michael Clarke said the news was difficult for the team as it prepares for next week’s third test against Sri Lanka.
“I was only speaking with Tony a couple of days ago so news of his passing is absolutely devastating,” Clarke said.
“Personally, he has also been a great mentor for me, providing great advice through the good times and the bad.”
Greig was a key figure in recruiting international players for Australian millionaire Kerry Packer’s anti-establishment World Series Cricket which began in 1977, abruptly ending his England Test career.
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 colourful and expert commentary,” Nine said.
Current South Africa allrounder Jacques Kallis, Test captain Graeme Smith and batsman JP Duminy were some of the many people to pay tribute to Greig in his country of birth.
“RIP Tony Greig,” Kallis wrote on Twitter. “Very sad news.”
Although Greig’s reputation was undoubtedly forged in England and Australia, South Africans still consider him one of their own.
He represented South African Schools and played first-class provincial cricket for Border and Eastern Province before seeking success in England and – eventually – Australia.