It’s no secret that Richie Benaud was my first cricket idol. In fact, probably the last idol I ever had of any kind. For as I grew older, I stopped having idols altogether. Richie, thus, remains my first and only idol.
I took up legspin because of the tales of his exploits, read in great detail from books on cricket and cricketers. Borrowed from the British Council Library, these were read from end to end, as they told of matches played, matches won, great contests such as the first Tied Test. I read about the exploits of Laker and Lock, Lindwall and Miller, Barnacle Bailey, Fiery Fred Trueman and Frank Tyson. None of them, exciting and interesting as they were, fuelled my imagination.
Laker bowled offspin and Lock was a left armer. Neither fitted the bill for me. I had no pretensions of the physical strength required to bowl as as fast as Trueman, Brian Statham, Ray Lindwall. Keith Miller was everything I was not. Charming, athletic, extroverted and supremely gifted. None of them were captains. Of the Indians of the time, Subhas Gupte was the only one I held in regard as a legspinner.
Younger fans will know him as an old and wise commentator. He was more than that. He was the first cricketer to score 2,000 runs and take 200 wickets in Test. Long before Jacques Kallis, before Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee there was Gary Sobers.
And before Gary Sobers there was Richie Benaud. Benaud was the first man to achieve 2,000 runs and 200 wickets at Test level. As an astute Test captain, he never lost a series for Australia captain. In all, he won 5 and drew 2.
As radio and then TV came into my life, I was woken up to the sound of his voice, early in the morning from Brisbane, or Sydney, as he introduced the “first die’s plie”.
Here he is in a caught and bowled:
And now for some commentary from Richie. No holds barred, clear and concise.
In my pre-teen need for an idol I needed someone who was a legspinner, a more than handy batsman and above all a leader. A leader who led with intelligence. A thinker, a student of the game, someone of whom it could be said, “This is a great”.
Richie Benaud was all that and it was a privilege to have him talking to us for 42 years.
Thank you, Richie.