A Legacy to be Proud of
‘Obviously I am disappointed. The only redeeming factor is that I have sacrificed cricket’s most coveted job for a cause which I believe could be in the best interests of cricket the world over.’
– Tony Greig, 13 May 1977
It says everything about my father that he accepted the consequences of his actions when he was stood down as captain of England. Although Dad hoped that Kerry Packer and the Australian Cricket Board would be able to work through their differences, he knew it was unlikely. Consequently, he knew, and accepted, that the day he signed for World Series Cricket (WSC) he would lose the captaincy. It was a sacrifice he was prepared to make primarily in the interests of his family, but also in the interests of the game and his fellow cricketers.
Dad therefore wasn’t surprised when on 13 May 1977 the decision was made by the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB), the game’s governing body in England, that he would no longer captain England. The TCCB’s secretary, Donald Carr, paid Dad the courtesy of informing him over the phone of the decision before the chairman of the Cricket Council, Freddie Brown, released this public statement:
Captaincy of England concerns involvement with selection and development of England players in the future and clearly Greig is unlikely to be able to do this as his stated intention is to be contracted elsewhere during the next three winters. His action has inevitably impaired the trust which existed between the cricket authorities and the captain of the England side.
Although disappointed, Dad agreed that it was impossible for him to be involved in team selections and long-term planning and accepted the decision with good grace. He also understood the comments about trust from the TCCB’s perspective. He believed, however, that during their lives, every member of the TCCB would have acted in the same way he did when negotiating with a potential employer. Dad never accepted the charge that he was untrustworthy. He argued that he, and anyone else in the same position, had no option but to act in the way he did. And he was prepared to accept the consequences.
He might not have been captain anymore, but he was still part of the team, so Dad threw all his energy into helping England beat Australia. His loyalty to England, and to his new captain, Mike Brearley, remained paramount. At Brearley’s insistence Dad played in all the Tests in that five-Test series in which England won the Ashes 3– nil. In his landmark book, The Art of Captaincy, Brearley acknowledged the support he received from Dad during that series as both adviser and player.
Dad consistently scored runs and took wickets in that series. He particularly enjoyed the 91 he scored in the second innings of the first Test, scoring almost half those runs from 11 boundaries. The whole world against him, his and his team’s backs to the wall, these were the situations in which Dad revelled. Australia had a first innings lead of 80. England was struggling in its second innings before Dad, batting at number four, joined Bob Woolmer in a 92- run partnership. It helped England to a relatively healthy 305 and when stumps came on the final day, Australia was struggling at 6–114. The match was drawn, but England had taken a powerful psychological advantage.
Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg said that Mike Brearley had a degree in people. He actually had a qualification in psychoanalysis from Cambridge University and he certainly would have needed all of his academic skills to unite a side which included Alan Knott, Dennis Amiss and Derek Underwood, all of whom had joined WSC, and Geoffrey Boycott, who vehemently opposed it.
I also have to admire Dad’s amazing mental strength to go out and play cricket amid all the criticism, some of it deeply personal. Perhaps the cricket ground became a refuge. There he was no longer a rebel, or a traitor, he was the one thing that he always longed to be, a Test cricketer. Dad scored 76 in the second Test, which England won by nine wickets.
England also won the third Test, in which Dad’s contributions were more modest, a couple of wickets, 11 in the first innings and a duck, bowled by Max Walker, another WSC signee, in the second. They might all have been about to work for the same boss, but already there was no love lost between the Australian World Series players and the teams that Tony Greig would lead in Mr Packer’s colours.
England required only one innings in the fourth Test, Dad made 43 out of 436 and took the wickets of the Australian openers, Rick McCosker and Ian Davis, in the second innings. The fifth Test was drawn. In the official team photo taken at the end of that game in the shadow of the Gasometer at the Oval, Dad can be seen sitting right next to Brearley, and with a beaming smile. Dad’s smile was always biggest when England beat Australia.
Despite the comprehensive victory against an Australian side which was unable to show the same unity between its own WSC and non-WSC players, the English press still went after Dad. He was labelled a traitor, greedy, selfish. He had already developed a thick skin as part of the protection needed just to survive as England’s captain. Now it needed to grow a lot thicker. No matter how much Dad argued that cricket would benefit in the long term, nobody in the English media seemed to want to listen. No matter how often he said it would have been selfish to go on as things were – him enjoying the fruits of captaining England, while the game languished and the conditions for the players remained so poor – the criticisms remained ferocious. Even the fact that the game was already benefiting had no impact. As the arguments raged, Cornhill Insurance emerged as a major sponsor for English cricket, the huge sums involved increasing the payments to Test cricketers to £1000 a game.
Dad has many legacies, as a father, as a friend, as a commentator. High among them is the one that should be acknowledged by every international cricketer today, many of whom are millionaires. When Dad decided to throw in his lot with World Series Cricket, he did so because he believed in the end it would be for the good of the game and for its participants. That was Dad: if he believed in something, if he wanted to achieve something, he went for it.
And in the end, all these years on, even his harshest critics have come to accept that on the matter of what World Series Cricket would ultimately do for the game, Dad was right.
Excerpted from Tony Greig: Love, War and Cricket by Joyce Greig and Mark Greig. Copyright © 2013 by Joyce Greig and Mark Greig.
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