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Tony Greig

Former England cricket captain

Born: October 6, 1946; Died: December 29, 2012

Tony Greig, who has died aged 66, was the South-African born cricketer who became England captain and revolutionised the game as one of the architects of the World Series of the 1970s. Later, as a commentator in Australia, he was famous for his booming voice and signature hat and was one of the game's most colourful and often controversial characters.

Born and raised in Queenstown in South Africa, Greig qualified to play cricket for England because of his Scottish parents. He trialed for Sussex in 1965 as a teenager and set himself the goal of representing England.

He made his test debut against Australia at Old Trafford in 1972, making half-centuries in both innings and taking five wickets for the game.

A confident and occasionally abrasive character, he revelled in the on-field contest, at times stirring up crowds, particularly during the 1974-75 Ashes series.

Standing 6ft 6in tall with a shock of blond hair, he was an imposing and charismatic figure whose strong performances and ability to bond the team earned him the captaincy – for the first time in a test against Australia in 1975.

In all, he played 58 tests for England – 14 as captain – and scored 3599 runs at an average of 40.43 and took 141 wickets at 32.20.

However, his England test career ended abruptly when he became a key figure, along with former Australia captain Ian Chappell, in recruiting international players for Australian millionaire Kerry Packer's anti-establishment World Series Cricket which shook international cricket in the late 1970s.

Media magnate Packer's concept, aimed at securing cricket broadcast rights for his Channel Nine in Australia, shook up the game's world order by pioneering limited-overs matches played at night and turning cricketers into full-time professionals.

Greig's signature lent credibility to WSC and he played a key role in converting disaffected players. However, his involvement with WSC put him at loggerheads with cricket's conservative establishment and he was stripped of the England captaincy in 1977. His international career ended shortly after, although modern professional cricketers now credit his decision to join WSC with improving the game in the long term.

After indifferent performances with the WSC, in the 1980s, Greig went on to become a cricket pundit and soon became known for his strong opinions. He was a high-profile member of the commentary team for Australia's Nine Network and his decades behind the microphone made him an institution in Australia's sporting life. He was easily recognisable in the commentary box because of his big voice and hat and established a famous partnership with former Australia captain Bill Lawry. Their fame as an on-air pairing perhaps even eclipsed their achievements on the field although Grieg's cancer, diagnosed in October, prevented him from taking his position behind the microphone for the current 2011/12 season.

Although his reputation was undoubtedly forged in England and Australia, South Africans still consider him one of their own. He represented South African Schools and played first-class provincial cricket for Border and Eastern Province before seeking success in England and – eventually – Australia.

He is survived by his wife Vivian, two sons and two daughters.

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