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Tony Greig dies after heart attack
By Greg Buckle
19:21 AEST Sat Dec 29 2012

Tony Greig's 33-year on-air sparring partner Bill Lawry was among those left shattered at the sudden death of the former England captain and commentator.

A feisty South Africa-born allrounder who played 58 Tests before playing a crucial role in the establishment of the breakaway World Series Cricket (WSC) in Australia in 1977, Greig died on Saturday aged 66.

Greig had been diagnosed with lung cancer in October, but he suffered a heart attack at his Sydney home on Saturday morning and died about 1.45pm (AEDT).

"He was rushed into St Vincent's hospital. The staff of the emergency department worked on Mr Greig to no avail," St Vincent's spokesman David Faktor said.

Greig's wife Vivian thanks those who had offered their support and asked for privacy.

"World cricket has lost not only a great allrounder as captain of England but a man who has promoted cricket right around the world," Lawry told AAP.

"He was just as popular in Sri Lanka, India, Dubai, whatever, with his television coverage over the past 35 years as he was as captain of England as a player.

"His worldwide contribution to the game of cricket has been enormous.

"He is bigger than life. He was a tremendous competitor as a player.

"All the Nine commentary team are my friends but Greigy was my closest friend from the moment he walked into the box 33 years ago after two years of World Series Cricket as a player."

Media tycoon Kerry Packer's rebel series was his response to the Australian Cricket Board's refusal to give his Nine Network exclusive Test broadcast rights.

WSC helped improve remunerations for players and dragged the sport into the modern age of day-night matches.

In the 1980s, Greig became a high-profile member of the Nine Network's cricket commentary team and continued in the role until ill health sidelined him only a couple of months ago.

Greig's involvement in WSC caused an abrupt end to his international playing career.

Former Australian captain Lawry says he's lost a great mate and he'll miss Greig more for his off-field exploits than his famously feisty commentary style.

"My wife and I are absolutely shattered and we really feel for Vivian and his four children today," Lawry said.

"I have missed him terribly this year, not knowing how sick he was."

Lawry said he regularly dined with Greig after a day's commentary and a phone call from Greig never failed to secure a table at a popular restaurant, even if it was fully booked.

"He was a wonderful entertainer when we all went to Sydney, not only for the Channel Nine team but for the umpires and the opposing players and officials," Lawry said.

"Kerry Packer and Greigy got World Series Cricket but he is the guy who had the most to lose. He was prepared to give up the captaincy of England because he could see world cricket needed a change.

"He has become a great Australian, a nationalised Australian, a proud Australian and a wonderful ambassador for the game of cricket.

"The Australian crowd loved him because he was competitive. He played like an Australian.

"He faced Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson at their peak. He didn't take a backward step."


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