Cricket is as exciting to hear as it is to watch. While on field, it is fuelled by performances, off it, the voices in the commentary box make it equally enjoyable. Cricket commentary over the years has transcended beyond the notion of it being just an add-on. Come to think of it, many voices have made it immortal, but perhaps none more than the late Richie Benaud and Tony Greig.
Today in 1930 & in 1946 respectively, Benaud and Greig, two of cricket’s finest allrounders, captains and commentators were born. Benaud, known as the ‘Voice of cricket’, was the first player in the history of the game to score 2000 Test runs and take 200 Test wickets. He played his first Test in 1952 and went on to chart a memorable Test career not only as an allrounder, but also as one of cricket’s most successful captains. He was credited for Australia’s rise post the Bradman-era and taking his country to the top. Australia never lost a series under him.
Benaud played 63 Tests before giving it up and began his second innings as a commentator. For decades, he anchored Channel Nine’s cricket coverage and played a monumental role in the formation of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket in 1977. He would go on to become world cricket’s most recognized and admired commentators due to his crisp style.
A car accident forced him to halt his commentary duties. He suffered chest and shoulder injuries during a car crash in Sydney in late 2014 that resulted in two fractured vertebrae. It prevented him calling a single ball during the Ashes series. In November that year, Benaud revealed that he was suffering from skin cancer, a battle he lost on April 10, 2015.
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The similarities between Benaud and Greig were plenty. Greig too enjoyed tremendous success as an allrounder and captain. In 1976-77, England toured India for a five-Test series and broke a 15-year series drought by winning 3-1. Considered a controversial figure, Greig reveled in the on-field contest and would at times stir up the crowd, such as during the 1974-75 Ashes series. He also paid the price for his outspoken nature, when just before the 1976 series against West Indies, his comments on making the visitors ‘grovel’ backfired with West Indies hammering England 3-0.
Born in South Africa, Greig went on to play 58-match Tests for England, in which he amassed 3599 runs and picked up 141 wickets. He played 22 ODIs and scored 269 runs while taking 19 wickets.
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Surreal as it is, Greig too helped Packer with the World Series by signing up numerous cricketers from England, Pakistan and West Indies. The move however, cost Greig his England captaincy in 1977 and it turned out to be his last international game. It is then that he took up commentary. In the 80s, he became a prominent figure for Channel Nine along with Benaud, and was described Greig as a “beloved” figure by the network. Who can forget him being over the moon when Sachin Tendulkar went berserk in the Coca Cola Cup in Sharjah in 1998?
In the late 2000s, Grieg began limiting his commentary appearance. While commentating during the coverage of the first Australia-South Africa Test in November 2012, Greig revealed that he was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent an operation and chemotherapy to fight the condition. Earlier that year, he was also diagnosed with bronchitis. As his cancer progressed to Stage 4, his condition deteriorated and a heart attack eventually took his life on December 29, 2012.