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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Richie Benaud

Richie's death came as a surprise rather than a shock. 

Many cricket followers would have been aware that he was unwell, but not that the skin cancer which has claimed his life was so far advanced.

He was an excellent commentator and a very good cricketer. I'm old enough to to remember him playing, not only for his abilities in all three departments of the game, but also for his often flamboyant presence. His shirt was often ( especially in Australia) unbuttoned lower than those of his contemporaries; he was good at motivating his players when they looked to be flagging (he could always get another over or two out of Alan Davidson, a great left arm fast bowler who sometimes developed a niggle when fortune went against him); and he was generous to his opponents (I recall him during an Adelaide Test detouring on his way to the crease to congratulate Brian Statham, who had just taken a wicket which set a new record).

Apart from seeing him live on the field and, though not often live in those low tech days, on TV I also saw him in the flesh many years ago (it was probably during a Sheffield Shield match) at the piecart which used to be near the Adelaide GPO. I was so surprised that I didn't say anything. (I vaguely recall him mentioning the piecart favourably in one of his books).

His TV career far exceeded his playing one and it is this for which he will be most remembered, especially, but by no means only, for his laconic comments. His last public comment on cricket was as the voiceover for the big screen tribute to Phillip Hughes before play began in this just completed season's Adelaide Test v India.

He was also an incisive writer of articles for a range of newspapers as well as books. In time, as memories of his TV commentaries fade (but in the YouTube age are unlikely to disappear) his written words may become the cornerstone of his reputation.

Vale, Richie.

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