In May 1977 I returned home to the London suburbs after the first extended period I'd ever spent away from home without my parents - a 'lively' school trip to a small seaside town in Dorset (name witheld to protect the innocent) which is probably still recovering - and my Dad met me off the bus.

I was only eleven but I really liked my cricket. He knew that, which was probably why one of the first things he told me was that many well-known cricketers, led by the England captain Tony Greig, had signed contracts to play cricket for someone neither of us had ever heard of called Kerry Packer. The news had just broken, which was why it was on his mind, but I, after a week of visiting 'places of interest' and trekking across the rain-blasted Dorset countryside, had no idea what he was talking about.

I soon found out, though. That summer's Test series against Australia was to be the last time Tony Greig would ever represent England, although, with hindsight, it's staggering that he remained in the side after being stripped of the captaincy.

It's almost become trite to say that Tony Greig is better remembered for his intimate involvement with the development of World Series Cricket than for his deeds on the field, but it's no less true for all that. In the days when Andrew Flintoff was everyone's hero he tended to be compared to Ian Botham with barely any thought given to anyone who wore the England all-rounder's mantle before him. But before Botham came Tony Greig, and Tony Greig, I promise you, could play.

My memories of Greig are fractured by the passage of time and age. Not my age now, you understand, but the age I was then. Certain things stick in the memory - like Packer and 'grovel' (I wonder now if I'd ever heard the word before Greig used it so clumsily) and the London West Indian crowd dancing in front of the pavilion at The Oval after Holding bowls him for the second time in that match. And I remember his angular bowling action, which spawned a thousand playground imitations. And I remember his SP bats and gloves. And I remember his upright stance. And I remember the withering power of his cover drive, enhanced by his immense reach and stride and invariably played with a self-conscious flourish. But I don't remember either of his Indian tours, or his trip to the West Indies, or his debut. Those came from a long-forgotten time when I occasionally had other things on my mind apart from cricket.

My lasting memory of Greig, though, is one which has been mentioned in virtually every tribute paid to him in the days since his death. The England tour of Australia in late 1974 and early 1975 was the first overseas tour by an England team that I was ever aware of. Which meant that the first Test in Brisbane was the first overseas Test match involving England that I ever followed. I was up early to listen to Alan McGilvray on my little brown radio, and there were highlights on TV each evening. You didn't need to be very old to tell that Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee were fearsome bowlers. And you didn't need a very mature grasp of psychology to know that signalling the four for yourself each time you hit one of them to the boundary was likely to make them even more fearsome.

I might not have known the expression, or what it meant, but, at the time, I knew what I was seeing.

Tony Greig had balls.

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