Tony Greig Interview - England's Most Controversial Captain?
A year later you were made England captain; how proud a moment was that?
A wonderful moment, to get that phonecall from Alec Bedser, who to this day remains one of my heroes: the most magnificent bloke. Then to be told by Alec and the selectors that they wanted me to turn up with the team I wanted, there would never be a vote, and as long as I got it right most of the time I would keep the job. It was refreshing to work with those guys: Sir Alec, Sir Len Hutton, Kenny Barrington and Charlie Elliott – great cricketers and very professional people who put faith in their captain. Not only was it an incredible privilege to get the job, but incredible to work with those people.
You led the England side for the final time on the tour of India in 1976/77.You managed a 3-0 series win and kept the Indian crowds on your side.
I took to India and the subcontinent very much. As a SA we weren’t allowed to go there, but I loved the place. It was the first time I really felt as if we were entertaining people, as the people there loved the game so much – to go to those stadium and find them packed full. To this day Eden Gardens remains one of my top three ground, just because of the incredible atmosphere. On that last day in Calcutta there wasn’t much chance of an hour’s play or even two, and yet the ground was full, nudging up towards 90,000 people – that gives you some idea of what a wonderful place it was to play cricket. People underestimated how hard it was to beat India in India. They shouldn’t have done, because the only side to have done what we did was Jardin’s side.
You went to see Kerry Packer initially for a job in the media and instead came came away with an offer to captain a World X1 in World series Cricket
I went to see Kerry for an off-season association with a media organisation and unbeknown to me, he had become fed up with Cricket Australia and was trying to get cricket rights. He had realised how important cricket was, it was rating very well in all parts of the world – and I was then exposed to World Series cricket and had a very difficult decision to make at the age of 32.
When you accepted, was it a case of you looking after yourself, or genuinely believing that World Series cricket would make the average cricketer better?
In the first instance it was me looking after myself, my family and my future. It is common knowledge that we were paid very little and you really did have to have another job to go to. I wasn’t very big on the benefit system they had in England – but you had little option but to resort to it. So number one, yes it was me, looking after what I had to do next. I was 32, I had two children and was worrying about what I was going to do for the next half of my working life. So form that point of view, you then go about trying to justify what you have done, and I was absolutely sure that if we got paid more, then the rest would follow. There were plenty of first-class cricketers who didn’t believe that. Plenty of Test cricketers did believe it and that happened very quickly – the way went from £210 in 1977 to £1500 and then it happened for everyone else. Looking back, I think that our critics, Bloefield, even Parky – who has since apologised to me – and many others, who were very very cricitcal of what we were doing – who probably now look back and say we got that wrong.
Were you ever worried you had made the wrong decision?
At the time when the heat was one, I really did wonder if it was really worth all the hassle, whether it was worth stretching the friendships of those people who had been very good to me: guys like Alec Bedser, E W Swanton who was good to me a youngster. There were quite a lot of people I didn’t enjoy getting offside. It would have been easier to have done the normal thing and had a benefit and hoped things worked out in the long term.
My dad said to me very early on, always look over your shoulder, and the problem was that there have been a lot of England captains who thought they were going to be England captain for a long time, and they weren’t. That was always in the back of my mind, from the day I got the job. Take the grovel statement, that could have even gone against me.
You were banned at the start of the 1978 season for writing an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, you'd been through the court case and then there was the incident involving your daughter Samantha where she wasn't invited to a birthday party because of who you were. Those few months were the turning point
With the Boycott thing, I was just responding to Boycott. At the time I felt if ever there was mercenary then it was him – so I just responded to that. But in my contract, in the fine print, Everything had to be cleared through the Sussex office and the ICC, so they took pleasure in nailing me and I had to play in the second XI and for Brighton & Hove for a while. The pressure was on at that stage. The court case came and I didn’t enjoy that – I had never been in a courtroom before – and I didn’t like seeing Robert Alexander and Andrew Merret do to the establishment in England what they did, because basically they just buried them. The English establishment got thenings very wrong, they had no chance of winning and wasted a lot of money.
Then there was an incident with my little girl, and once it started affected my family, I got on the phone to Kerry Packer and said it’s about time I came and worked for you.
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