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Tributes touched a cricketing treasure

Final days … Tony Greig and family at Christmas.

Final days … Tony Greig and family at Christmas. Photo: Channel 9

TONY GREIG was deeply touched by the warm wishes of some of the game's biggest names during his battle with lung cancer, in particular an offer by Australian captain Michael Clarke to take his young son to the cricket.

The former England captain and iconic television commentator died, aged 66, on Saturday after being rushed to hospital. His passing is expected to be acknowledged at the New Year's Test between Australia and Sri Lanka starting on Thursday, with the SCG Trust already encouraging fans to wear a broad-brim hat to the game in honour of Greig.

His close friend, former Australian opener Bruce Francis, said Greig had been moved by the reaction from the cricket community to his cancer diagnosis, announced in October. Among the many to call were Dennis Lillee and Clarke, who offered to take Greig's 10-year-old son Tom to a game.

''Michael phoned Tony to see how he was, and said to just yell out if Tom would like to come to the cricket, whether it be a practice session or a match, and that Michael would look after him,'' said Francis, who was also Greig's manager during the World Series Cricket era when the England captain controversially helped Kerry Packer's breakaway league. ''Tony was taken aback that Michael was prepared to make that commitment.

''Similarly, he might have hoped that Dennis Lillee got in touch once, but the fact is that Dennis got in touch often, and Tony felt he was genuinely concerned. Tony was never really worried what people thought, but having said that, through this situation Tony took great comfort from people getting in touch. He saw that as validation of him as a good person.''

Tributes continued on Sunday, with Shane Warne tweeting: ''Tony did so much for the game of cricket & always stood up for what he believed in & had the game of cricket at heart, we will all miss him.''

There was also extensive reaction from the country he led, England, and his native South Africa.

Former England captain Ian Botham was ''very sad and emotional''. ''He was my first ever captain for England,'' Botham said. ''He was flamboyant and extroverted, faster than light, and he made things happen. He was an amazing guy and so full of energy. He changed cricket for everybody as we know it now. The game suddenly leaped forward and players started to be paid more substantial amounts.''

Former South African cricket chief Ali Bacher said while Greig had made Australia his home, he had not forgotten where he had come from. ''He was proud of his upbringing and, at every opportunity, paid tribute to the excellent cricket grounding he received from Queen's College where he went to school,'' Bacher said.

''He passed on his love of his native South Africa to his young son Tom, who can often be seen wearing a Springbok rugby jersey or Proteas cricket shirt.''

Cricket Australia and Channel Nine have been in discussions since Saturday afternoon over how to honour Greig at the SCG Test but no plan has been finalised. The SCG Trust is also encouraging spectators to wear white zinc on their nose as a tribute to retiring batsman Mike Hussey as well as pink clothing as part of the McGrath Foundation fund-raising.

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