There were many in English Cricket who were happy to see former captain Tony Greig opt for a life in Australia, because that is where they would have sent him a century earlier following what those in the ‘egg and bacon’ ties of the MCC deemed High Treason.
Tony Greig was captain of England at the time that he helped Kerry Packer set up World Series Cricket. Greig was credited with signing up a number of English and foreign players that he knew on the English County circuit.
The whole venture was kept secret, but word leaked when the touring Australians game against Greig’s county side Sussex was affected by rain. A party was held at Greig’s house during which two Australian journalists discovered the secret signings and the news became public.
Greig correctly believed that World Series Cricket would be good for the game, that it would result in players being played a worthwhile salary to play professional sport, and that the marketing that Packer had planned would raise the game’s profile.
Greig no doubt expected a backlash, but he was treated like a pariah in England.
He was abused for what many perceived as his underhand behaviour, and behaviour not fitting of an England captain. He was stripped of the captaincy, but interestingly retained his position in the side under new leader Mike Brearley. England defeated the Australians 3-0 in the series and despite abuse from the crowds Brearley fought hard for Greig to retain his place in the side.
He even requested that Greig received a share of any bonus due to the team, something the powers that be were none to keen to honour. His Test career ended at The Oval on 30 August 1977.
Thirty five years on it looks as if he is on the road to redemption having been announced as the man honoured with delivering the Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture at Lords later this year.
Whether you like him or not as a man or a commentator Tony Greig played a major part in the life a modern cricketer can enjoy, and he has written his name indelibly in the pages of the game’s history. It is good to see that finally people can let bygones be bygones and he will be afforded the respect his loyalty, to Packer, and what he believed World Series Cricket would do for the game as a whole.