I know nothing about Tony Greig other than “Oh, he’s smashed that” and “Right, here we go” — and that’s more than enough for me. I first started following cricket during the 1996 World Cup, when I’d say Greig was near the height of his influence (in South Asia, at least). His love for the Sri Lankan team (never-waning, it seems), along with his apparently genuine fondness for all things in the subcontinent, made for a perfect introduction to such a strange sport.
If we are charting storylines, 2011 was supposed to be the height of Indian cricket: two major tours to test the greatest batsmen ever produced. It didn’t work out that way, and 2012 has given way to a more frustrating and unsatisfying narrative of forever goodbyes. Dravid and Laxman have gone, and now, so have Ponting, Hussey and Greig. What’s so distressing — from a completely selfish, narcissistic point of view — is that each retirement (and, in Greig’s case, death) serves as another dreadful reminder that time keeps passing. Greig is gone, and so is that 11-year-old who fell in love with cricket. Yes, Grieg is gone, and when I heard so, I confess a moment passed when I couldn’t imagine the game the same anymore.
I’ve suggested before that cricket is something like a collective ritual, much like a visit to Catholic Mass. The pitch report, the commentary, the rhythm of an innings — we veteran fans know what to expect, and the particularly bright among us know all the patterns. Greig excelled because, at his best, he was both congregant (as delighted and ecstatic as we were) and priest (revealing to his laity the joys to behold). But how will our rituals change once these men leave? How will we?