The SCG Test 2014.
Australia are playing India.
500 people come dressed as their favourite cricketing hero.
They are not dressed as Mitchell Johnson. They are not dressed as Virat Kohli. Nor are they dressed as Shane Warne, Sachin Tendulkar or any other recent player.
They come dressed as a commentator.
Test cricket is a tough sport. It is also egalitarian. Everyone wears a white uniform. No one has a number or a name emblazoned on their back. True reputations are earned in this format of the game. Good and bad. It is a man’s game.
Richard Benaud walks out against the West Indies aged only 22. He thinks he is a leg spinner. Like great number 3’s, these don’t grow on trees. They don’t mature until much later in life. He bowls 4.3 overs in the entire match. 1/14.
Kerry Packer has an idea. Actually, he holds a grudge. The Australian Cricket Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board won’t allow him to broadcast matches on his beloved Channel Nine. Kerry takes matters into his own hands. World Series Cricket is formed.
Richie Benaud accepts the role as the commentary box captain.
Kerry tells him to wear a different coloured jacket to help him stand out from the others.
Growing up in Parramatta can be hard. Western Sydney in 1946 was not the prettiest of places.
One huge war had just ended. A young school boy named Benaud was about to enter a new personal one.
At age 16, he makes his Sydney first grade debut.
He is picked as a batsman.
“Let me tell you what I think about it: I think it was a disgraceful decision by a captain who got his sums wrong today.”
India is an uncompromising place for foreign bowlers. Success here is difficult to achieve. It becomes harder when your primary skill is that of a batsman.
Indians know how to play spin. You are not a threat to them on their own wickets.
Richie took 52 wickets there. The only foreigner to take more was Derek Underwood.
Richie’s average in India was 18 with the ball.
Warne’s average in India was over 43. Murali’s average was over 45.
‘Chew for Chwenty Chew’
We’ve all tried it.
When Richie took the Test captaincy, it was ahead of others including the better qualified Neil Harvey.
England held the Ashes. Richie had five home Tests to get them back.
Australia won 4 – 0.
Richie averaged 26.4 with the bat and took 31 wickets at 18.83 with the ball.
Winning in Pakistan is hard to do. In 1998, Mark Taylor lead Australia on a tour of Pakistan. They won their first Test there in 37 years.
The previous occasion was when Richie lead his team there in 1961.
In 1963, Richie became the first player to complete the Test double of 200 wickets and 2,000 runs.
Australia never lost a Test series when Benaud was captain.
No one seems to notice, or even care that Richie doesn’t sound like your quintessential Australian.
He has his own voice. His own mellifluous way.
Richie is the ‘Voice of Cricket’.
One of the world’s greatest all rounders was Wasim Akram. He made 3 Test centuries.
So did Richie.
However, Benaud’s took 50 less innings and at a higher batting average.
“Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up.”
Richie Benaud didn’t speak.
Silence truly is beautiful.
Vale Richie Benaud 1930 – 2015
Republished with permission at First Post