Nasser Hussain says Tony Greig 'transformed' the sport of cricket
Last Updated: December 29, 2012 1:56pm
Nasser Hussain says generations of English cricketers should be thankful to Tony Greig for his role in transforming the sport. The Sky Sports pundit was speaking after it was announced that former England captain and TV commentator Greig had died of lung cancer in Sydney at the age of 66.
He will be remembered for his flair with bat and ball and for his wit in the commentary box, but Hussain highlighted his bravery in playing a prominent role in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket concept in the late 1970's.
The decision to play in the Australian tournament, which gave rise to the growth of one-day cricket and saw players being properly paid for the first time, would ultimately cost him the England captaincy.
But Hussain said that while he was initially dismissed as a rebel, he will be remembered for his bravery as a trailblazer.
"It was a huge impact," he told Sky Sports News HD.
"It was pretty much an amateur game before him where players played for the love of the game and because of Tony Greig, because of Kerry Packer and because of World Series, suddenly the world realised they had to start paying their cricketers.
"He could have been completely banned from the game and taken out of the game. He obviously got a lot out of it himself, but so did every generation of cricketer after him because of what he achieved and because he went off to Australia and took on the establishment."
"One-day cricket became much more dramatic with the coloured clothing and the white balls and another form of cricket was invented.
"He was a dramatic sort of guy; the blond locks, the collar up, the way he took on opposition cricketers. I played with Keith Fletcher at Essex, who knew Tony very well and would always say what a fantastic guy and leader he was. He was a great England captain as well. He transformed the game. He was a good guy.
"He was very brave and he did take people on. He wasn't someone who just went with the norm and he wasn't establishment. It was in his character.
"He could have been completely banned from the game and taken out of the game. He obviously got a lot out of it himself, but so did every generation of cricketer after him because of what he achieved and because he went off to Australia and took on the establishment.
"In those 'Packer years' the cricketing world was in absolute turmoil and uproar and nobody really knew where to turn. Luckily, everyone bought in to this new form of the game, bought in to World Series cricket.
"That generation of cricketers, you're talking about the great West Indies team and the Australian team and the England team had great cricketers, they suddenly realised that these guys were going to have to be paid properly.
"Television became very interested because the product that they saw was much more exciting than some of the cricket that went on before.
"When you get that combination, the establishment has to follow and interest in the game grew because of what he achieved."
Greig became a much-loved commentator after retiring from first-class cricket and was known for making plenty of controversial statements during his playing days.
He famously said he intended to make the West Indies "grovel" ahead of a Test series in 1976 - a statement that would return to haunt him as England slumped to a 3-0 defeat - and Hussain said that was part of what made him such an endearing character.
He added: "We've all said things in hindsight that we wish we hadn't said and it probably wasn't the most sensible thing to say when you're about to take on the West Indies.
"I'm sure he didn't mean it the way it was sometimes taken in parts of the world, but the West Indies of that era would use anything to go back at the opposition - and they definitely used that against Greig.
"But that was the sort of guy he was. He was the sort of guy that didn't take a backwards step against anyone.
"Even recently, working with him in the commentary box you saw that. I've read today the words 'larger than life character' and he was that. He had an aura about him.
"A little bit like Shane Warne, who I've worked with and played against, when he walked in a room, everyone thinks 'great, Greigy's in the room'.
"With that big booming voice of his, he was a great commentator, a great cricketer and a great guy."