Farewell Mr Benaud

10 Apr

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Ranting and raving about the problems of the world is my usual modus operandi, a therapy of sorts or simply a way to cope with the realities of the world.  But today the bear within has been silenced. The rants are taking a backseat to pay tribute to a legend.

As a young man I grew up with Richie being ‘the voice of summer’. My passion and love for  the game of cricket can be directly attributed to this man. Richie wouldn’t command attention by imposing himself on his audience, he would simply impart his knowledge and the history of the game through a genuine passion and understanding. When Richie Benaud spoke everyone listened, not because they had to but because they wanted to. Right until the end of his career he managed to engage people of all ages. From children right through to the elderly he remained relevant, on point and interesting. Unlike most of the new commentators he didn’t speak to just be heard, he spoke when he had something of relevance to say. Which lucky for us was quite often.

 “My mantra, put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up”   Richie Benaud.

Richie would not only talk about his beloved Australian team but all cricket teams. He was a conduit between the past and the present players of all cricketing nations.  While observing techniques of present players he would make reference to former players of similar styles. Often comparing two cricketers from two completely different countries. Thus bridging the cultural divide  and educating all who were watching and reminding us of the others that walked before us. Sunil Gavaskar, Wasim Akram, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Richard Hadlee, The Don, Joel Garner, Arjuna Ranatunga,  Keith Miller, Kapil Dev are but hundreds of players that are forever burned into my memory. There aren’t  too many sports around the world where you can name past and present players from various national sides dating back to the 1930’s. I attribute this in part to Richie Benaud.

Richie Benaud was a gentleman. Throughout his career as a sportsman and commentator Richie always held himself to a high standard. He never lowered himself to swearing, trash talking or any form of skulduggery. He was a fierce competitor, an honourable Captain and a successful commentator, all while maintaining grace and decorum. This didn’t mean he was a soft touch and he didn’t mix words when he believed something was inappropriate or unsportsmanlike.  I believe that Australia’s sense of sportsmanship and fair play was influenced by Richie Benaud  and this link says it all,

The Underarm Bowl

After seeing this you, you can clearly see why the man was so well liked and respected around the world. To come on national television and speak so passionately gives us an insight into the type captain and leader he was. I bet if he was in the commentary team for the 2015 World Cup Final the behavior of some the Australian team would have come under the same scrutiny.

Richie led a commentary team that provided cricket lessons, tactical hints, anecdotes and insights that could easily see you through a 5 day test match. But a highlight for me was when Shane Warne was bowling and Richie was commentating. The genuine insight into the mind of a leg spin bowler enabled me to not only appreciate Warne’s skill but his ‘chess like’ approach to his craft. Benaud would guide you through every step of the way and give the viewers an insight into the game that was truly special.

His knowledge of cricket was well documented but I think my favourite part of Richie Benaud’s commentary were his subtle jokes. His dry wit and softly spoken elegance  enabled him to slide a joke into a conversation without breaking stride and leave his audience either completely oblivious or in fits of laughter.

“And Glenn McGrath dismissed for two, just ninety-eight runs short of his century.”

I never lived through the Bradman era but people like Richie Benaud enabled me to fully appreciate his legend. I am just happy that I was able to grow up in the Benaud era and witness for myself a true legend.

Thanks for teaching  me cricket and what sportsmanship really means.

Farewell Mr Benaud

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