Bowled over by love for a very special man

TONY GREIG was once ostracised by the establishment, but such has been his mark on the game he loved that a bastion of cricket conservatism, the SCG Members Pavilion, played host to his memorial service.

Greig's two families united at the SCG on Sunday in a moving 90-minute tribute to the former England captain and Channel Nine commentator, before the one-day international against Sri Lanka, a country in which he is revered.

Among the 300 guests invited by Channel Nine were the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard; the Australian cricket team; representatives of the Sri Lankan side, and a who's who of the game, including Sir Ian Botham, who arrived in Sydney on Sunday morning and flies out on Monday.

They heard Greig described as a devoted family man who made his loved ones feel special, and as a performer who readily imparted vast knowledge of the game to viewers at home.

The setting was poignant, as it was at the SCG 33 years ago to the day where Greig met Vivian, his second wife and mother of his two youngest children.

Vivian shed tears as she remembered her ''ultimate best, best friend; my confidant and my great love''.

''It was such a privilege to have your love returned to me and a great honour to be your wife,'' she said.

In front of the camera, and behind the microphone, Greig was an innovator. He was one of the first cricketers to wear a helmet when batting, although not until the twilight of his career.

He later told his wife that he felt it took away from the test of courage to face a fast bowler.

''Then came [Dennis] Lillee and [Jeff] Thomson and he reconsidered the helmet,'' Vivian said. ''I was appalled. 'You mean to tell me that it took over 100 years after someone had invented a box before you came along to think about protecting your head.' That told me a lot about male priorities but it also showed me Tony was pretty smart, and brave, to wear a helmet.''

The former Australian Test captain Bill Lawry stayed in character as Greig's long-time sparring partner behind the microphone, recalling how a former Channel Nine executive, David Hill, had recognised the on-air chemistry behind the pair.

''What he really should have said was nobody else wanted to really work with Tony in the commentary team,'' Lawry said of his great friend.

Lawry said one of the highlights of calling the Sydney Test each year was the dinner parties thrown by Greig, who played host to stars from yesteryear, such as the South African pair Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards and England's John Snow.

Those evenings will be sadly missed, Lawry said. The former Indian captain Ravi Shastri, in a speech read by Channel Nine's Mark Nicholas, said he had enjoyed Greig's hospitality last summer when they ''dug deep into that fabulous wine cellar of his'' and discussed the key issues facing cricket. ''Greigy, you bugger, you didn't give me the chance to reciprocate,'' Shastri wrote.

Ms Gillard tweeted after the service: ''Summer will never be quite the same again.''

This story Bowled over by love for a very special man first appeared on Brisbane Times.