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Friday, April 10, 2015

Richie Benaud: 1930 - 2015

Did you know Richie Benaud played cricket for and captained Australia?

Did you know he was one of our finest ever all-rounders? No, not a Shane Watson or a Glenn Maxwell, an actual allrounder. 2201 Test runs at 24.45, with three centuries. He scored a century against the West Indies in a Test in 1955 in 78 minutes, having taken 15 minutes to get off the mark. He took 248 Test wickets at 27.03, an Australian record he held for 17 years before being passed by Dennis Lillee. He captained Australia in the Tied Test in Brisbane against West Indies, when he and Alan Davidson attacked with the bat on the final day in an attempt to win rather than play for a draw. He bowled Australia to victory in the famous Test at Old Trafford in 1961, coming around the wicket to bowl his leg spinners into Fred Trueman's footmarks. He was the first cricketer to reach the Test double of 200 runs and 200 wickets. In essence, he was a legend of Australian cricket long before most of us were born.

Richie Benaud made cricket commentary an artform. He took the best ideas of those he had heard on radio growing up, and moulded into his own style. He was knowledgeable from having played the game at the highest level, and from being involved at every level. He was involved at the beginnings of television coverage of cricket. He didn't waste time with anecdotes. He described the play, and he dissected the play, and he used his vast knowledge and love of the game to make it more enjoyable for those of us watching, while we learned more about the game from listening to him.
He was not infallible. His commentary on air following the bowling of the underarm by Trevor Chappell in 1981 was inflammatory and ill conceived at a time when more neutral words may well have helped the situation to be resolved with less commotion than eventually occurred. I disagreed with him at the time as an 11 year old, one of the few times I can remember being on the opposite side of the fence from him.

His commentary values are ones that all current and future cricket commentators should be forced to commit to memory and follow without question - "less is more", "let the cricket do the talking" "if you can't enhance the cricket on show, don't say anything". It is a sad indictment on the current TV coverage of the game that so few people who are privileged enough to be in the commentary box abide by these simple rules, and feel it necessary to try and make themselves the stars instead of the cricket being played.

Richie Benaud was the equal of Don Bradman in his influence in the game of cricket worldwide. Not in the same spheres but no less influential. He was an adornment to the game. Like Bradman, we will never see another like Richie Benaud. Cricket hasn't been the same in recent times without him. Now we know he will never return. The cricket world is a sadder and emptier place today with his passing.

Thanks for everything Richie. Say hi to Tony for us
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