Mr. Richie Benaud, OBE, passed away peacefully in his sleep yesterday at the age of 84. He had been receiving radiation treatment for skin cancer since November. 6th October 1930 – 10th April 2015.
It is very profound that there is something that connects both my own and my parent’s generation. I was brought up in a cricket loving family, hearing the dulcet tones of Richie Benaud and co commentating the summer of cricket. Before the previous summer, Richie Benaud had been a staple of the Australian summer for 35 years. That sort of continuity has seen a feeling of connection from primary school children to their grandparents, and its end has seen a profound feeling of loss across not only Australia, but the world. No longer will Benaud’s unique commentating style, in-depth analysis and familiar voice welcome us to the beginning of the summer of cricket.
Benaud came into the national spotlight as a young member of a national team still boasting stars from the 1948 ‘Invincibles,’ and at the beginning of his career, struggled to remain an option. His first 23 Test matches yielded a batting average of 20.97 and a bowling average of 34.40. It was then that he began to turn it all around, delivering standout performances in the tough conditions of Pakistan and India. This can be put down to Benaud’s hard work – a determination to not let his potential slip, but unfortunately would result in later injury as a result of the heavy loop he generated from a powerful shoulder movement in his bowling action. It got to the stage later in his career Benaud famously could not lift his arm to brush his teeth on a tour of the Sub-Continent.
The South African tour of 1957-58 saw Benaud win the series for Australia 3-0 with the statistics of 329 runs at 54.83, (including centuries in both of the Tests at Johannesburg), and 30 wickets at 21.93. These are incredible figures for an all-rounder, something the current Australian Test side is missing. It was this sort of impact which endeared Benaud to the Australian public, and quickly saw him become captain the next summer for a home Ashes series.
This first taste of captaincy saw his men rout the English 4-0, before going on to defend the Ashes in 1961 and 1962-63. As a captain, Benaud inspired complete loyalty from his men, as he approached the game in an energetic, aggressive, but sensitive, manner. He was a classic Australian captain; not afraid to lose a few friends playing the game, hard but fair, and someone who never lost a Test series as captain.
When he retired after the Summer of 1963-64, Benaud was the only Test cricketer to have achieved the double of 2000 runs and 200 wickets, and to this day is 1 of 10 Australian cricketers to score 10 000 runs and take 500 wickets in First Class Cricket. His Australian bowling record of 248 wickets would stand until broken by Dennis Lillee in 1981-82.
Upon retirement, Benaud worked his way through the ranks as a journalist, becoming well known for his objectivity and subtle humour. Not only in Australia, Richie had a commentary career in England spanning 42 years, only finishing in protest as the rights for English cricket broadcasting being sold from free to air provider Channel 4 to pay TV Sky Sports.
Potentially his greatest achievement, at least post cricket, was his instrumental role in seeing World Series Cricket through to fruition. Who knows where the game would be today if it were not for the work of Benaud alongside Kerry Packer. These men changed the game for ever.
My memory of Richie Benaud will always accompany a wry smile. Whether it was his classic catchphrases punctuating the long five days of a test match, or even his most recent ad for Australia Day, Richie Benaud was an icon and will be dearly missed.
Vale Mr. Richie Benaud, OBE.
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