Be­naud’s voice to be missed for­ever from the air­waves

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOHN PYE

The mo­ments of si­lence across the globe as cricket fans re­flect on Richie Be­naud’s life will speak vol­umes about his con­tri­bu­tion to the game.

It was the fre­quent pauses — the air time be­tween com­ments — as much as the in­sight­ful ob­ser­va­tions and dry wit that en­deared the el­e­gant for­mer Aus­tralian test cap­tain to peo­ple who fol­lowed cricket.

He spoke with an as­sured author­ity, clip­ping his words in a dis­tinc­tive man­ner that spurred so much rev­er­ent mimicry that added to his ap­peal.

Be­naud, who was born on Oct. 6, 1930 at Pen­rith in Syd­ney’s outer west, died on Fri­day at the age of 84 from com­pli­ca­tions from skin can­cer.

He took months to re­cover from chest and shoul­der in­juries af­ter crash­ing his vin­tage sports car on the way home from a round of golf in Oc­to­ber, 2013. Last Novem­ber, he re­vealed he was re­ceiv­ing treat­ment for skin can­cer.

“When I was a kid we never ever wore a cap ... be­cause (team­mate) Keith Miller never wore a cap,” Be­naud said at the time. “If I knew, when I was at school and play­ing in my early cricket days, the prob­lems that would have come if I didn’t do some­thing about pro­tec­tion of the head and us­ing sun­screens and all sorts of things like that, I’d have played it dif­fer­ently.”

Cricket Australia Chair­man Wally Ed­wards said Fri­day “our coun­try has lost a na­tional trea­sure.”

“Af­ter Don Brad­man, there has been no Aus­tralian player more fa­mous or more in­flu­en­tial than Richie Be­naud,” Ed­wards said in a state­ment. “Richie stood at the top of the game through­out his rich life, first as a record-break­ing legspin­ner and cap­tain, and then as cricket’s most fa­mous broad­caster who be­came the iconic voice of our sum­mer.”

Be­naud’s life re­volved around cricket, and his in­volve­ment took on many forms from stu­dent and player, to news­pa­per re­porter, writer, ra­dio broad­caster and TV host.

He played 63 tests for Australia, mak­ing his de­but against the West Indies in 1952 and cul­mi­nat­ing in 1964 against South Africa, a trans­for­ma­tive pe­riod in the game.

It’s been ab­so­lutely mar­velous

A dash­ing, at­tack­ing lower-or­der bats­man and skilled leg-break bowler, he was the first player to score 2,000 runs and take 200 wickets in test cricket. When he re­tired, his ca­reer haul of 248 test wickets was an in­ter­na­tional record.

As a cap­tain, he never lost a se­ries and was cred­ited with help­ing re-en­liven the test for­mat af­ter a pe­riod of staid, de­fen­sive stale­mates that had slowed the game to an al­most glacial pace and at­tracted wide­spread crit­i­cism.

He en­cour­aged his bats­men to lift their scor­ing tempo, his bowlers to cut down the time taken be­tween de­liv­er­ies and overs and his field­ers to be ever ready. A tied test against the West Indies in 1961, the first in his­tory, added to his leg­end.

Be­naud bat­ted down the or­der for Australia, and tal­lied 2,201 runs from 97 innings at a re­spectable 24.45, in­clud­ing three cen­turies and nine half cen­turies.

His 248 wickets came at an av- er­age of 27.03, with best innings fig­ures of 7-72.

He ven­tured from news­pa­per re­port­ing into TV af­ter do­ing some train­ing at the Bri­tish Broad­cast­ing Com­mis­sion be­fore he’d fin­ished play­ing test cricket. When wealthy Aus­tralian busi­ness­man Kerry Packer was look­ing for some­body to help him rev­o­lu­tion­ize the game at the start of the World Se­ries Cricket era in 1977, he per­suaded Be­naud to join his broad­cast team to give the con­tro­ver­sial con­cept the kind of stand­ing it needed to sup­ple­ment the high-pro­file stars he’d re­cruited to play.

Be­naud con­tin­ued to split his time be­tween Australia and Bri­tain, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing a cache of ex­pe­ri­ence that ex­ceeded 500 tests and mak­ing him a house­hold name in both places. He was con­sid­ered a mas­ter of un­der­state­ment, and the wry re­mark. When call­ing Shane Warne’s first ball in an Ashes test in 1993 — later dubbed the ball of the cen­tury — Be­naud fa­mously said Mike Gat­ting “has no idea what has hap­pened to it,” quickly an­a­lyz­ing the wicket be­fore adding as the Eng­land bats­man trudged off: “He still doesn’t know.”

In later years, he ad­vised Warne on the art of com­men­tary, and ar­guably the great­est bowler of all time knew his place.

“He’s just one of the great men, Richie,” Warne said. “He’s sort of a cap­tain of the team and what­ever Richie says goes.”

Be­naud was a Wis­den Crick­eter of the Year in 1962, one of the high­est ac­co­lades in the game. “If one player, more than any other, has de­served well of cricket for lift­ing the game out of the dol­drums, that man is Richard Be­naud,” Wis­den noted in its pro­file. “Cap- tain of Australia in four suc­ces­sive and tri­umphant se­ries to the end of 1961, he has demon­strated to en­thu­si­asts all over the world that the in­ten­tion to make cricket, par­tic­u­larly test cricket, at­trac­tive and ab­sorb­ing is ev­ery bit as im­por­tant as skilled tech­nique in bat­ting, bowl­ing and field­ing.”

Be­naud’s last broad­cast in Eng­land af­ter 42 years was at the last test of the Ashes se­ries at The Oval in 2005, when the English re­claimed the old urn.

On the fi­nal day, the sta­dium an­nouncer let the crowd know it was Be­naud’s last day, and the ca­pac­ity crowd rose for a stand­ing ova­tion.

Aus­tralian play­ers in the field, in­clud­ing Warne and Glenn McGrath, clapped above their heads.

As the test was wind­ing to­ward a draw on the last evening, Be­naud’s live TV mono­logue segued from his fond­ness for a par­tic­u­lar song to his own de­par­ture.

“That won­der­ful duet, ‘A Time To Say Good­bye.’ And that’s what it is, as far as I’m con­cerned. Time to say good­bye,” he said. “Thankyou for hav­ing me. It’s been ab­so­lutely mar­velous for 42 years.”

Be­naud is sur­vived by his sec- ond wife, Daphne, who was at his bed­side Fri­day with other mem­bers of his fam­ily when he died. Be­naud’s younger brother, John, was also a for­mer jour­nal­ist and played three test matches for Australia and in 47 first-class games.

Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott has of­fered the fam­ily a state fu­neral and flags will fly at half-staff on the day of the fu­neral.

AFP

1. The Aus­tralian flag is low­ered to half mast for the Aus­tralian crick­eter and com­men­ta­tor Richie Be­naud at the Syd­ney Cricket Ground on Fri­day, April 10. 2. This file photo taken on Jan. 6, 2013 shows leg­endary Aus­tralian crick­eter and com­men­ta­tor Richie Be­naud host­ing a talk show dur­ing the lunch break on the fourth day of the third cricket Test match be­tween Australia and Sri Lanka at the Syd­ney Cricket Ground. 3. A fan lays flow­ers at the base of a bronze sculp­ture of Aus­tralian crick­eter and com­men­ta­tor Richie Be­naud at the Syd­ney Cricket Ground on Fri­day.

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