Tony Greig – A TributeMartin Chandler |
Author: Sharp, Nicholas (Editor)
Publisher: Sussex Cricket Museum
Rating: 4 stars
In the last couple of years the Sussex Cricket Museum has taken to publishing occasional booklets of historical interest. There is, as yet, no established pattern for the content of these publications, but this is the first to be produced by way of a tribute to a recently deceased member of the Sussex cricketing fraternity. I suspect it will not be the last.
Tony Greig’s untimely demise on 29 December last year brought with it a flood of obituaries of a man who, thirty five years before had gone, in some English eyes at least, from hero to pariah almost overnight. Over the intervening decades, slowly and gradually, his reputation was restored. To those of us for whom his aura never dimmed, mostly the early middle-aged for whom his pomp coincided with our formative years, the knowledge that he did live to see a day when he was once again acknowledged for what he really was is of some comfort.
Many of the passages written after Greig’s death concentrated on the stories of his rather poor choice of words before the 1976 home series against West Indies began, and his involvement in World Series Cricket, as much as his stirring deeds with bat and ball. A quick online search will produce much of that sort of material for those who are interested. What google will not be able to do is emulate the contents of this delightful little volume, which contains some heartfelt tales of Tony Greig the man, and Sussex teammate.
The first contribution, and arguably the best, is from John Barclay, a successor as Sussex captain who also played under Greig during the big man’s time in charge of the county. It is a delightful personal memoir, with nary a mention of the bigger picture, but much that makes its reader feel that they knew Greig almost as well as Barclay himself. His words will feature in Barclay’s own book, Lost in the Long Grass that is to be published later this year, and rather suggest that that too will be an essential addition to any cricket lover’s library.
Mike Selvey is now a respected journalist, but in 1976 played twice with Greig against West Indies, and toured India with him the following winter. His reminiscences focus primarily on the latter, and Greig’s habit of playing to the Indian crowds, and how they took to him as a result.
Former Sussex teammates John Spencer, Peter Graves and John Snow graft further detail onto the canvas started by Barclay and Selvey, and there are major contributions also from Richard Barrow, a lifelong Sussex fan and current Committee member, and former writer/broadcaster John Duncan.
There are just three photographs in the booklet, but I would think they were chosen with great care. I am not conscious of having seen any of them before (unlike the familiar and almost iconic images on the front and rear covers) but they very clearly bring out the man described within the booklet’s pages. One of the three shows Greig with a White Jaguar that he was able to secure from a sponsor, and which finds its way into rather more of the stories in the booklet than one would normally expect. I dare say it went to the scrapyard years ago, which is a great shame, as with the role it plays here it would now be a most desirable piece of cricketing memorabilia.
Returning to Barclay he does make the thought-provoking observation of Greig that If I am brutally honest he was not a brilliant cricketer, either batsman or bowler, but he made the best possible use of his ability.. I have to concede that “Trout” is in a much better position to justify that observation than I am to challenge it, and indeed in relation to Greig’s rather disjointed bowling action I wouldn’t try. But the sight of a helmetless 6 foot 7 inch Greig facing up to the likes of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts always struck me as “brilliant” – or do I merely mean “thrilling”?
The booklet is not particularly cheap, retailing at GBP20 plus postage, but besides being a delightful read it is very nicely produced, in a numbered limited edition of 200, and is signed by Barclay, Spencer, Snow, Graves and Tony Buss. If anyone reading this review is keen to source a copy, please email us and we will put you in touch with the Museum.