Stars mourn a giant of modern cricket
TRIBUTES have poured in for former England cricket captain and veteran Channel Nine commentator Tony Greig following his death at the age of 66.
After a heart attack at his Sydney home yesterday, Greig was rushed to St Vincent's Hospital where staff worked on him ''to no avail'', according to a spokesman. He died around 1.45pm, surrounded by his family.
Greig was diagnosed with lung cancer in October and did not join the Channel Nine commentary team this summer.
Tony Greig dead at 66
World XI Captain Tony Greig during the World Series Cricket Supertest Grand Final match against Australia in Sydney. Photo: Getty Images
He became aware he had a problem during Australia's one-day series against Pakistan in Dubai in August and September.
Initially diagnosed with bronchitis in May, the condition lingered and, by the time of the ICC World Twenty20 that finished in Sri Lanka in October, tests revealed a small lesion at the base of his right lung.
On his return to Australia, he had fluid removed from his right lung and further tests showed he had lung cancer.
Tony Greig. Photo: The Shane Warne Foundation/eBay
Last month, Greig spoke to the Channel Nine commentary team during their coverage of the first Test between Australia and South Africa in Brisbane. He was candid about his disease, saying, ''It's not good. The truth is I've got lung cancer. Now it's a case of what they can do.''
Richie Benaud, former Australian captain and the doyen of cricket commentary, described Greig as a dynamic cricketer, a fearless thinker and an entertainer.
''I found him a fellow full of courage; that was before he was ill. He was full of courage because of many things that had happened to him in his cricket life and his outside life as well. It's one of those things where we know this was inevitable but there's always a sadness when you see a good friend go.''
Kerry Packer's son James said Greig ''stood shoulder to shoulder with my father at times when it was not always fashionable''.
''Together with the backing of other key players and supporters, they forged a brave new age for both cricketers and spectators alike. For that alone, every fan of the game is in Tony Greig's debt.
''But he was much more than that. Our cricket enemy turned our mate; his famous car keys stuck in the pitch to demonstrate its hardness, and his legendary but friendly on-air barneys with the great Bill Lawry.''
Lawry said he was ''absolutely shattered'' for Greig's family.
"I was only saying (on Saturday) to Steve Crawley, our head of sport, how much I've missed Tony this year,'' he said. ''Because there is more time after play than during play sometimes. It was very much missing this year in Hobart.''
Prime Minister Julia Gillard described Greig as ''a superb all-rounder, ambitious national captain and authoritative commentator over the best part of half a century'' In a statement, she said ''Greig's standing in the game is matched by very few others.''
The Channel Nine network described him as a "beloved" figure.
CEO David Gyngell said his network had ''lost part of its extensive cricketing DNA''.
"It's a deeply upsetting time for his family and for everyone associated with Tony at Nine, and indeed for many, many others who came to know and love the man,'' he said.
He said Greig had made a remarkable transition in the Australian cricketing culture from foe to friend.
"He's been a great bloke - one of the terrific characters of the game both as a player and then a commentator, never short of an opinion but always a generous man with a big heart. You just cannot say fairer than that.''
Greig's wife, Vivian, thanked the public for its support and condolences and requested her family be given privacy.
''Tony was a tough opponent who took on all opposition with aggression and a determination to win,'' said Australian fast bowling legend Dennis Lillee.
Australian Test captain Michael Clarke said the news was ''absolutely devastating.
Personally, he has also been a great mentor for me, providing great advice through the good times and the bad.''
with Adam Cooper, Chris Barrett and AAP