When I first came over from my native South Africa I had never even seen a pasty.
But as soon as I got into the Sussex team in 1967 that situation changed. Keeper Jim Parks loved his hot savouries and would always stuff a couple of cheese and onion in the top his pads. During my first game he chucked one at me in the slips and said "hey Greggy, get stuck into that." From there on I was hooked.
|"Careful they're hot": Grieg at the Hove branch of Percy Ingle in 1973.|
The county circuit was still dominated by sausage rolls in the early seventies. The further north you went the meat pie usually ruled supreme. It struck me as odd because the pasty's shape makes it ideal for scoffing, on or off the field. I lost count of the number of players I'd seen with disgusting gravy stains down the front of their whites after an attempt to down a meat pie at Fine Leg.
I made my England debut in 1972 against Australia at Old Trafford. Although I was proud to pull on the England jersey I couldn't help but feel disappointed with the standard of oven baked goods on display. At one point after a long session in the field we came back to the dressing room at Tea to find that captain Ray Illingworth had ordered quiche all round. John Snow was furious; he said he'd refuse to bowl again. It was then that I saved the day. I had a couple of oggys in my bag and quickly offered one to Snowy to calm him down.
England's top brass never forgot my intervention that day. I knew that if I played my cards right I would get the captaincy. Mike Denness was never going to be there for the long haul. His food of choice was haggis, which had the rest of the team reaching for the sick-bag.
|A fired-up Michael Holding kicks Alan Lamb's scotch egg into the stands 1982.|
Sure enough by in 1975 the job was mine. By 1977 I had a gathered together a pretty decent England team. We were up against the West Indians, who fancied themselves to turn us over. They had one or two decent batsmen and a couple of quicks but I didn't think they would trouble us too much. We had people like Chris Balderstone, Frank Hayes and Pat Pocock all at the peak of their powers.
Just before we all gathered for the first test at Lord's, the well known bakers Ginsters struck a deal with the TCCB to provide us with free pastys. I got all the team together the night before and delivered my team talk: We would stuff the Windies in three days and then get stuck into some delicious hot pastry based goodies.
Unfortunately West Indies captain Clive Lloyd got wind of our deal and came storming into our dressing room demanding half of our savouries. He was not a happy bunny when I told him that he would have to get his own.
They were still moaning and groaning about how unfair it all was, when I went out to face the press for a pre match interview. I suppose in hindsight I could have chosen my words more carefully but when you are in front of the cameras and there's a delicious pile of freshly baked pastys waiting for you back indoors then sometimes you can say the wrong thing.
|"We're going to make them grovel for our Ginsters" Greigy goes on the offensive.|
I said that if the West Indies wanted any of our pastys they would have to "grovel for them". In actual fact that was a pretty generous statement as I was under no obligation to offer them anything.
They were pretty cross. I remember Viv Richards coming over and saying "Stuff your pastys, man. You are going to get licked".
Poor old Closey (Brian Close) took the brunt of the vicious quick bowling onslaught. He was a hard man who liked a pasty or three. They knew if they could intimidate Closey then they might get their hands on a box of our cheese and onions. But he stood firm. I remember him coming into the dressing room covered in bruises and heading straight for a tray of steak bakes that had just come out of the oven. They were red hot and would have burned the roof of anyone's mouth but Closey just stood there, chewing away. It must have hurt him but he wouldn't flinch. That was Closey for you. I once saw him make tea by putting a teabag in his mouth and pouring freshly boiled water straight from the kettle into his gob. Amazing bravery.
Of course I got singled out too. Michael Holding and co were as desperate to get my wicket, as they were to get my pastys. Holding was coming in off his long run. They called him "Whispering Death" because you couldn't hear him approaching "Bakers Oven" and then - boom - all of a sudden he'd be in the queue in front of you bagging the last of the Chicken and Mushroom.
|No play today. "What time does Greggs open?"|
We ended up getting soundly beaten, and my comments were made to look a bit silly, but we had the last laugh. Whilst the victorious West Indians had to go to some stuffy reception at their embassy for vol-au-vents, the England lads tucked into a tray of just cooked freshly made pastys. I remember "Deadly" (Derek Underwood) looking at me, crumbs everywhere and saying "it doesn't get much better than this, does it Greggy?" He wasn't far wrong. Crazy days!
The Aussies liked to have a go at us about our eating habits. I recall that Rodney Marsh - no slouch himself when it came to troughing - called us a load of "Pie-Chuckers " in a newspaper article. The boys were livid. Pie Chuckers!?! None of us had as much as looked at a pie all season. It was always pasties or nothing under my reign.
My England career came to a sudden halt a year later. Mike Brearley took over as captain. No disrespect to Brears but he was an haute cuisine man - snail porridge on toast, that sort of thing. He might have a degree in psychology but it seemed stupid to me to try and get the likes of Beefy (Ian Botham) and Gatt (Mike Gatting) on Quail's egg salad when they were itching to get on the Ginsters.
Kerry Packer was a dear friend of mine and I'm proud that he chose me to help set up his "World Series of Pasties " in 1979 to find the world's best savoury pastry product.
|Greigy and Kerry Packer, London 1978, preparing for the World Series of Pasties.|
It was a controversial undertaking that caused a lot of controversy. For a start there were well-established pasty competitions that had been going for donkey's years and that some people were keen to preserve. Packer's idea was to have a new tournament featuring only the world's very best pastys and pitch them against each other.
It was a mouth-watering prospect. From the West Indies we had 'Jamaican Pattys' versus the might of the Australian 'Vegemite and Mushroom' slice. I can still remember the excitement of the Cornish Pasty /Beef and Onion bake-off.
I got labeled as a trouble-maker and it signaled the end of my playing career. I'm happy in the commentary box nowadays. I always enjoyed working with the Sky lads; there was an interesting mix of tasty treats on offer in that commentary box. Athers (Mike Atherton) preferred fancy Cambridge school food like cous cous or hummous, whilst Bumble (David Lloyd) was never happier than when he had a barm cake on the go. Then you can guarantee that Michael Holding will still be trying to get one over on me. Many is the time that I've taken a bite from a meat and potato number only to find it smothered in hot chilli sauce. Some blokes just can't let things go.
|"Young players today have it easy. Better money, fast cars, cracking pastys."|
There have been a lot of changes since I hung up my bat. There's a hot pasty outlet on every high street in the country these days and you cannot visit a railway station without having being seduced by a wonderful array of hot savoury outlets, each selling a delicious selection of weird and wonderful treats: tomato and basil, steak and ale, coelacanth and peas.
I remember Alan Knott saying to me once " Greigy, do you think there will ever come a day when scientists can get curry into a pasty?" We just laughed - Knotty had lots of crazy ideas - but it was only yesterday that I was at the West Cornwall Pasty Company shop in London's Oxford Street tucking into a piping hot Chicken Balti. If I hadn't burnt my tongue so badly I would have got Knotty on the mobile and told him to get over sharpish ... and to bring his gloves. Some of these pasties give off more steam than Gatt's undercrackers after an all-run four at Delhi.
Pasty-related injuries are rare but can be career-threatening when they do occur. I remember poor old David Steel's tongue became so swollen after he'd bit into a lava-hot cheese and onion during a test match at Old Trafford that he couldn't speak properly for months. He was such a liability when calling that his team mates used to dread batting with him - "yeth, nurgg, yeth." No-one knew what the hell was going on. I told him to stick to pork chops in future to which he replied "geth stuthed". Crazy days.
|Current test players, like Ian Bell, appreciate the merits of a decent hot savoury product.|
Mike Brearley and Dennis Amiss were always scared stiff that they would suffer the same fate as Steely and even went as far as wearing rudimentary tongue-guards to protect them against hot fillings. In my book, if you have a decent technique then there's no need to wear any sort of protection. Just be patient (yes, I know that can be hard when there's a batch of delicious meat and potato savouries fresh out of the oven) blow hard and make sure you get a proper sighter before tucking in. Boycs (Geoff Boycott) was the best in the business at biding his time. He could hang around for hours before even thinking about grabbing one and then, when everyone else was stuffed, he would be there filling his boots.
But, not everything is quite as rosy as it might first appear. Go to any County Championship game - the bread and butter of English cricket - and try and find a pasty for sale anywhere in the grounds. The chances are that you probably won't be able to find one. Burgers, pizza, sandwiches - even salads, for God's sake - are freely available but not so their warm pastry encased cousin. No wonder the county game is in such trouble. A soggy egg and cress baguette and a packet of past-their-sell-by-date Brannigans certainly wont be enticing many people to pay good money to take a trip to their nearest county ground.
It's the same at the IPL. It certainly doesn't stand for the "International Pasty Lovers" because your chances of picking up a decent oggy there are about as slim as Boycs getting a round in.
It's a worrying future. We need the likes of the ECB and the world's governing bodies to be strong and ensure that cricket doesn't go the same way as the likes of football, which, as we all know, is run by the prawn sandwich brigade these days. And as for tennis, it's all bananas and Robinson's Barley Water. No wonder we haven't won Wimbledon for so long. Give Andy Murray a giant Cornish pasty and watch those aces fly in.