Hats off to great who changed game

IT WAS Tony Greig's final innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground and he was sent off with a standing ovation.

His family and friends gathered at the SCG as the cricketing world paid tribute to the former England captain, who died after suffering a heart attack on Saturday.

The flags were at half mast, and a wide-brim hat, which was synonymous with Grieg, hung over the pink stumps at the centre of the ground during the minute's silence.

Greig's Channel Nine colleague Richie Benaud opened the broadcast with an insight into the cricketer who tamed bowling attacks all around the world, closing out with a tribute to the man who touched many at home through his insightful words. Benaud described Greig as a ''gifted colleague and friend''.

''The striking thing about him was his strength, so strong in every way … a terrific guy, a man I always liked to have on my side,'' Benaud said on Channel Nine.

''In commentary he did everything and he did it wonderfully well.


''The weather walls, pitch reports … Greigy did a tremendous amount of research on pitches, soils and cracks. He never wanted to be wrong, just confident and firm and strong.''

Recalling Greig's part as one of the main recruiters for World Series Cricket, Benaud said Greig felt strongly about a fair day's pay for a fair day's work in days when cricketers were paid ''peanuts'' and treated with little respect.

Benaud said it was a day of sadness but ''we will get on with it as he would have wished. And at the end of the day we will raise a glass to our gifted colleague and friend forever.''

Greig's fellow callers each provided their own stories and tributes to the South African-born cricket tragic.

While both teams wore black arm bands as a mark of respect, the most heart-felt gesture was Michael Clarke's. The Australian captain was approached by Greig's son Tom, who provided Clarke with the white handkerchief his father wore around his neck during his playing days.

Clarke, who donned the handkerchief with no hesitation, said it was ''the least I can do'' to honour his friend, with whom he developed a close relationship over many years in the game.

''He was an inspiration to cricket,'' Clarke said. ''The game owes Greigy a hell of a lot. If not for the great Kerry Packer and Tony Greig, the game wouldn't be where it is today.''

Bill Lawry missed his ''great friend'' and jousting partner.

Mark Taylor hailed Greig for his willingness to put his reputation on the line for the good of the game, as he did in pioneering the use of helmets.

Ian Healy praised Greig's industrious research, saying he was the first person he knew to have a laptop with WiFi by his bedside.

Ian Chappell recalled how Greig's fairness spared him in a difficult situation when the two captains were asked whether the third Test at Headingley in 1975 should proceed after the pitch was sabotaged. Greig said ''no'', despite believing England held the advantage.

''He was combative but he was not about to take advantage of you,'' Chappell said.

Greig's family and the Channel Nine commentary team were invited by opposing captains Clarke and Mahela Jayawardene to join the players and officials on the SCG before play.

His wife, Vivian, was overcome by the outpouring of emotion, saying on Test eve: ''I just wish he could have seen it. I'm so grateful, truly grateful.''

with AAP