Monday, November 18, 2013

Tony Greig from a different angle

Tony Greig probably didn't set out to be divisive, but he had that effect on people.

He was best known to mainstream New Zealanders as one of the commentators on Channel 9's coverage of Australian cricket which beamed into Kiwi homes from the earliest days of the post-Packer era of World Series Cricket.

Tony Greig: Love, War and Cricket – A family memoir by Joyce Greig and Mark Greig. Published by Pan Macmillan. Price $49.99

But to cricket fans he was widely regarded as a combative captain of England, and a player who aligned himself with Kerry Packer's assault on the administrative bastion of world cricket that was something of a closed shop until 1977.

As Packer's agent, Greig was involved, while captaining England, in putting the feelers out for players who wanted to get involved in the proposed 'rebel' series that Packer wanted to run on his own television station as a result of the Australian Cricket Board refusing to give up on its rights being allocated to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Knowing that the cricket fraternity would never agree with his initiative, Packer launched his World Series that resulted in two years of upheaval before a British court ruling that the cricket administrators were guilty of a restraint of trade for cricketers forced the hand of the administrators.

Packer got his access to television coverage and the result has been reflected in cricket's re-birth since that time.

Greig became installed as one of the regular commentators, often upsetting the home bias of his Australian co-commentators, most notably Bill Lawry.

What is not so well known is the story of Greig's life. While this publication is, as its cover suggests, a family memoir, including the intriguing story of how his parents met and the implications of that on his mother's existing war-time marriage, it does help demonstrate what might have contributed to Greig's make-up.

Given the accounts of his Scottish father's war-time service in Bomber Command and the number of missions flown, above and beyond the call of duty, it was little wonder that Greig the younger was stung by The Times' cricket writer John Woodcock's comment at the time of the Packer controversy that it was understandable Greig should be involved because, after all, he wasn't an Englishman by birth but by adoption.

While his cricket career is covered in the story, what is more telling is the effect of his career, and the subsequent life in post-Packer days, that is the more revealing. Too often the personal cost of sport is not reflected but the role of family cannot be under-stated and both mother and son make poignant storytellers in this regard.

Tony Greig's influence in cricket was significant, and his views contained in his Cowdrey Lecture, which is run in full in the book, is a demonstration of how he felt about the game and its future.

Tony Greig – Love, War and Cricket is not your usual cricket biography but then Greig wasn't your usual cricketer.

No comments: