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I can assure that Tony Greig was not a racist: Michael Holding

Sunday, 30 December 2012 - 7:20am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Charismatic former England skipper tony Greig dies aged 66.

I’m currently in the US and got to hear about Tony’s demise last night at 11 Miami time. I got an email from an Australian friend and was shattered hearing the news. Tony Greig was a towering figure in world cricket, and that is not just because of his height and built.

My relation with him was not very cordial initially, particularly for that comment he made about the West Indies team. But I got along very well with him later. I worked with him in Sharjah with Mark Mascarenhas and spent some quality time together. We used to go for dinners and I got to know him more closely.

Then we spent time in Australia working for Channel 9. I went to his house for dinner many a time;  my relationship with him changed for the better as my interactions increased over the years. He was a good man.
Our rivalry on the field was always intense. It was particularly so during the 1976 series because of the comment (we will make them grovel) he made about the West Indies team. It did not go down well with us. At that time, the remark was thought to have racist undercurrents but actually he did not mean that.

I’ve got to know the man very well in the later years and I can say with assurance that he was not a racist. He was a man always looking to make a headline but he was not what he was portrayed to be. He was just a fighting cricketer who would battle hard on the field. I discovered that he was different from what his comments made him out to be.

As a commentator, he had very few peers. He was very good with the mike, having done the job all over the world. I do understand that he has a particularly large following in India and Sri Lanka. A lot of Indians, I know, enjoyed his commentary.

He took on the Australian commentators when he worked with Channel 9. He always tried to add balance to the commentary when the Australians were blatantly taking sides. With the exception of Ian Chappell and Richie Benaud, the Aussies were the cheerleaders of Channel 9. Tony was different, providing unbiased  audio output.

I also shared some great moments with him in the World Series Cricket. We could see how the game benefited from the world series cricket. He recruited the players for WSC from all around the world, including West Indies. It was a great thing for the game.
Tony was huge in the cricket world. It will miss him not just for his knowledge of the game and commentary but also for his wisdom and uprightness. My condolences to his family.

(Michael Holding is a former West Indies cricketer who does commentary with Sky Sports in UK. He spoke to Vijay Tagore)

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