Tony 'Enigmatic' Greig!
“They are dancing in the aisles in Sharjah.”
“The little man has hit the big fella for six! He’s half his size!”
“That’s a great shot. What a little beauty! That’s gone miles over the top of midwicket.”
The inimitable commentating style, or rather it could be called “the crooning” of the late Mr. Tony Greig, always added spice to the match. The first two annotations were about our Little Master, when he was playing that epic innings in Sharjah and the last one was about Ajay Jadeja’s mammoth six off Waqar Younis in the quarter-finals of the 1996 World Cup, which India won comprehensively. Looking back today, I wonder whether all this matches would have been the same if not for Tony’s queer commentating style, or for his spot-on remarks. Tony Greig created a new dimension through his commentary, weaving magic which elevated the love for our player and made the game more memorable.
Tony Greig, a former captain of England and one of the pioneers in modernizing the game, was an enigmatic persona who was known for his perky and “right-in-your-face” statements right from his playing days. His career has been quite interesting for an Englishman and he was one of the leading all-rounders to have played the sport.
The effervescent all-rounder had a stormy relationship with West Indies and he was involved in a couple of controversies against them. It is not easy to forget the unsportsman-like behaviour against Alvin Kalicharan when he decided to claim a run-out after the play was “presumably” over, earning the backlash of the West Indian supporters. Though he apologized for what he did, it is probably one of the black-spot moments of his career.
If this was any indication of the kind of relationship he had with West Indies, the other incident about the “groveling” that he accused the West Indians of, did not go down well with any of the fans or the players themselves. He was thrashed and meted out with such treatment that he wouldn’t forget for the rest of his life. He was made to “swallow his own words” or rather perform, and he won the crowds over with his humour-quotient.
Greig probably has one of the most coveted triumphs in his kitty. (Yes, the one he shares with Cook today!) He was the first English skipper to win a series in the ‘spin-lands’ of India. He was booed around and was quite unwelcome in this part of the world. But destiny had other plans for him, as he fought against India in their own den to take them down 2-1 and claim the Test series after a long time. He personally had a great tour, capturing ten wickets and making 400 plus runs.
The last of his hey-days were in Australia when he led a spirited English team to play a one-off Test against the Oz to commemorate the Ashes series that began a hundred years back. Greig and his boys put up a worthy fight, only to go down by 45 runs. He was hailed as a champion for his heroics in India and the near victory he achieved in Australia, but all that was before he got involved with Kerry Packer.
That was the literally the down-fall for the man, the association with Packer, and the secret signings for the World Series Cricket shut everything down for him, including his illustrious career. A sad moment for cricket, for his innovations and the revolutions he was planning to bring on cricket. Tony Greig was a visionary who realized that the future of cricket depends on marketing and the right kind of format to draw the interest of the fans, but was fired for the same. He won the case in the end, managing to save his credibility, and his vision had to be aborted along with the World Series.
He was suffering from epilepsy from the age of fourteen but managed to keep himself fit to play for England. Such was his resolve that he took whatever measures he could to keep playing cricket. Even as a commentator, he never held himself back, thereby earning the approval of the bemused crowd who were stumped by his unique style. His understanding of the game was beyond usual and so were his words.
Cricket lost Tony Greig today, and his loss will be felt by the fans whenever we tune in to watch England in action. His in-depth commentary will be missed by the set of fans he has earned over the years. RIP Tony! We will miss you! and so would the commentary box!