Tony Greig: The man who lived for the game
What a shot'; 'In the air and taken'; 'In come's the throw' - Some of these iconic phrases continue to ring in the ears and minds of cricket followers across the globe.
A true follower of cricket will acknowledge that the original Channel 9 commentary team played a distinctive role in taking the game to the masses. At a time when cricket in India was still growing, where broadcasting rights were monopolized, incredible voices of Tony Greig and Richie Benaud felt like cricketing gospels. While Ian Chappell and Benaud were precise and punchy, Greig and Lawry lent humor and animation to the proceedings. This variety, therefore, proved insightful and expressive.
In a game of wood-leather, where the human skill of sportsmanship alongside physicality is on display, it is incomplete without the sound effects. Seeing and hearing things together create a lasting visual impression than done singularly. When a spontaneous expression happens, it makes you feel part of the action.
You begin to take your imagination to the next level in ascertaining the next possible move. This is what the great Tony Greig did to cricket commentary. He gave us a chance to think what the bowler is planning after getting dislodged for a boundary, or what is the chat between the captain and the bowler or how will the batsmen react to the next ball.
Any sport is complete only when it draws you into it fully and absorbs your attention and imagination. This happens when all stakeholders involved act with passion.
Tony gave me a feeling that he wanted to do it all, from player interviews, talking to the curators, pitch report, tea intervals, regular commentary, post-match presentations, and analysis. One can succeed in all departments only when unconditional drive and love for the game exists inside. He did them with great enthusiasm.
Despite being old school, he embraced involvement of technology in cricket and supported it wholeheartedly. He was one of the first to do descriptive documentaries on various technologies in cricket. Several contemporary commentators have tried to copy him but cricket will have only one Tony.
A complete package on and off the field
He had this unique ability to elevate good players to stardom where someone would be god sent to that particular situation in the game. When Sachin Tendulkar punched Brett Lee down straight, Tony not only personified the Indian legend as the master but also made us think how the Australian fast bowler would respond in the next delivery.
He would name players with their fielding positions, describe their movements, dramatize the juncture, describe the mood in the camp, point the tension on players face before even extrapolating on what the crowd was thinking. Tony could encapsulate everything so crisply that made the average fan wait and watch more.
Hailing from a strong cricketing family based in South Africa, his zest and drive to play top class cricket broke barriers in what was a tumultuous time in South African cricket. His father being Scottish helped him get through English County, where he played and captained Sussex. His performances and popularity grew him to captain England, but not without controversies.
From the careless 'grovel' remark against West Indies to playing verbal volleys with Dennis Lillee, he played fire with fire. At the peak of his playing days, it was his audacity that made him believe Kerry Packer and his new league. Acting on behalf of Packer, he roped in top cricketers from other nations and instilled confidence in them. It was Tony's conviction that gave the league shape, meaning, and excitement. From playing under lights to colored clothing, modern short versions of cricket owe a lot to Packer and Greig.
Before taking it to microphone, Tony retired as one of England's top all-rounders with an incredible batting average of 40.43 and a bowling average of 32.20 from 58 Tests. He remains one of only 3 Englishmen to score 3000 runs and pick 100 wickets.
As a true all-rounder, Tony excelled in commentary by laying standards of the kind that is unmatched. He was outspoken in his views and never gave away an inch on the field as well as off it. Cricket needed him as much as he needed it. He lived the game as he talked it. He just loved to see pure talent prosper.
Some characters in life are created for a purpose and I believe pure passion and love for cricket probably made this gentle giant an intrinsic part of the game.