The dreaded disease of cancer took away two of the cricket world’s most respected men in a space of four days. On 29th December, former England captain and popular commentator Tony Greig succumbed to lung cancer aged 66, while noted English journalist and commentator Christopher Martin-Jenkins lost his battle against terminal cancer on 1st January, aged 67. Here’s a brief overview of their life in cricket:-
Tony Greig (1946-2012)
Tests – 58 Runs – 3599 Average – 40.43 Wickets – 141 Average – 32.20
Standing at an imposing 6’6, Anthony William Greig, better known as Tony Greig, was a larger-than-life personality who wore many hats during his lifetime – including of course, the big one he donned while commentating, making him a figure who was hard to miss in the box. Greig was born in South Africa, but qualified to play for England due to Scottish parentage. The Sussex stalwart made his Test debut against Australia in 1972, beginning a reasonably successful 58-Test career as a leading all-rounder, and then later captain of the side as well.
This innings could have been longer if not for the rebel in him. He was in fact, skipper of England when he joined forces with Kerry Packer, and helped him sign up leading English and international players for the latter’s World Series Cricket. The incident caused a storm across the cricket world, and cricket was never the same again. Greig was understandably stripped of his captaincy and sacked from the team, but he had played his part in revolutionising one-day international cricket.
Greig was never away from controversy. Be it his controversial run out of Alvin Kallicharan off the last ball on the second day of 1973-74 Port-of-Spain or his notorious ‘I intend to make them grovel’ comment for the touring West Indies in 1976 (which created an uproar as it was thought to have racial overtones, but it backfired horribly as England were beaten 0-3 in 5 Tests), he always managed to remain in the spotlight. Keeping in line with his rebel streak, he was also roped in as an expert by the unofficial, now-defunct ICL.
As captain, his best moment was England’s 3-1 win in India in 1976-77 (their first in the sub-continent in 15 years), when the tourists were considered underdogs. As a commentator, he became immensely popular in the Channel Nine box in Australia, and also in the one-day matches played in Sharjah during the desert venue’s heydays. Outside of cricket media he served as a board member of the Epilepsy Association. In March 2011, he was appointed as the brand ambassador for Sri Lanka Tourism. On 26 June 2012 Greig delivered the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, around four months before he was diagnosed with cancer.
‘Give your hand to cricket and it will take you on the most fantastic journey, a lifetime journey both on and off the field.’, was what Greig said on a cricket website last year. Indeed, Greig made the most of what cricket had to offer, and has left his indelible mark on the game. May his soul rest in peace.
Christopher Martin-Jenkins, MBE (1945-2013)
Martin-Jenkins, known across the world as CMJ, never played first class cricket (though he played for Surrey 2nd XI), but will be forever remembered for his contributions to cricket. His life as a journalist began in 1967, when he joined The Cricketer magazine as a deputy-editor. His first match as commentator was an ODI between England and Australia in 1972. He made his name as a commentator on the Test Match Special (TMS) team, becoming an integral part of BBC Radio’s famous coverage of Test cricket, his last series being England vs Pakistan in the UAE earlier last year.
He joined the TMS team in 1973 and was appointed cricket correspondent in succession to Brian Johnston in 1973 and worked as cricket correspondent for the BBC (1973–1980, 1985–1991), the Daily Telegraph (1990–1999) and The Times (1999–2008). Mike Atherton replaced him as The Times Chief Cricket Correspondent in 2008, although CMJ continued contributing to the Times cricket pages, filing his last article on the death of Tony Greig on December 31st, the day prior to his own death.
He was also a prolific author, and his accounts of the 1973-74 West Indies tour (Testing Time) and the 1974-75 series in Australia (Assault On The Ashes) set the tone for more than three decades of quality output. In 2009 he was awarded and MBE then in 2010-11 was president of the MCC. Shortly after that tenure he was diagnosed with cancer. His Daily Telegraph obituarist wrote of his radio commentary that: ‘Nobody excelled him… in what he regarded as the first duty: that of giving a precise, clear, well-informed and accurate account of every ball that was bowled and every stroke that was played.’
Scyld Berry wrote: ‘What made him so good as a radio commentator, apart from his precise and unforced diction, was that he came closer than anyone to combining the knowledge of an expert with the enthusiasm of a student.’ May his soul rest in peace.