Paying tribute to Richie Benaud is not a minority sport. Pretty much all Englishmen (& many women) & Australians over the age of 30 are united in mourning today as he was hugely popular as a cricketer & broadcaster in both nations, with the BBC in England, and Channel Nine in Australia.
The key to his success was his understated, calm delivery, knowledge and generosity of spirit. He wasn’t controversial or partisan, and crucially he never attempted to be funny. He was very funny though, because the humour came naturally when something amusing happened. He was part of my childhood & youth that I will always treasure, and contributed to my love of cricket a lot more the the public schoolboy silliness of BBC radio’s Test Match Special crew.
He was a great role model for me – and I hope in some small way he was an adult who tempered my youthful attention-seeking mode of conversation. He was the quiet voice of authority and demonstrated you didn’t have to be hysterical, regardless of your strongly held opinions, or which team you wanted to win.
Sadly his legacy has been betrayed by the BBC who have dumped cricket as they search for ratings with non-stop cooking shows and Top Gear-like dross. Channel Nine on the other hand have put more money into cricket than ever before, but have lowered the standard of commentary to unprecedented depths. With the honorable exception of Mark Nicholas, their team of ex-Australian players try so hard to be funny with their non-stop “banter” that they now detract from the cricket. Here’s a superb takedown by the Guardian if you want the gory details about ‘Tubby’, ‘Slats’ and ‘Warney’.
RIP Richie – you truly will be missed.