As the sun rises today over Coogee’s Wedding Cake Island, this nation will be one soul less. One icon less. One legend less. One very nice fella less.
One instantly recognisable voice less. And with out a doubt one true gentleman less.
It’s not an accident nor is it a coincidence that the passing of Richie Benaud has been at the forefront of every news bulletin for the past 24 hours and seen social media come to a standstill. Nor is it a an accident that tributes have come from people right around the planet.
From past cricketing greats, to current Test players, to his colleagues at Channel Nine, to people in power to the guy around the corner who just loves cricket.
Growing up watching cricket it was that voice – the voice of cricket, the voice of summer – that told me it was time. Time to get sorted and get in front of the TV. Be it for the first days play of the first Test of the summer or for the first ball of a new ODI series.
But that voice of cricket was so much more. In summer you could count on few things, but Richie was one of them. Sure you’d have Ian Chappell, Tony Greig and Bill Lawry in the commentary box, but Richie was the key. Without him it just wouldn’t have felt right and the wheels simply would not have turned.
Rumour has it that the now famous beige jacket was Kerry Packer’s idea, as it would make Richie stand out from the other commentators. Mission accomplished. But it wasn’t just a jacket that did that. It was his clear love and passion for the game they play out in the middle and the respect and dignity he brought to our lounge rooms summer after summer. He was forthright yet gentle, firm yet softly spoken, sharp as a tack but with a wit that was just as sharp.
He brought cricket into our loungerooms and took us to the SCG, MCG or the Gabba, even though we were hundreds of kilometres away. His knowledge of the game was second to none. And unlike some of todays commentators I never heard Richie Benaud talk about himself and when people talked about one of his many accomplishments, he would simply turn it away down to fine leg and move on.
Sri Lankan cricket writer Harold de Andrado wrote once wrote that Benaud next to Sir Don Bradman was “one of the greatest cricketing personalities as player, researcher, writer, critic, author, organiser, adviser and student of the game.” Correct on all counts, Harold.
I never met Ritchie Benaud but I wish I had. However, it doesn’t prevent me from thinking i’ve lost a true constant in my life. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
In opening lines of last summers spine tingling promotion Richie Benaud said this. “Cricket. Cricket has so many meanings to so many Australians it’s become precisely that. An Australian way of life. And what a life it is.”
And for you Richie Benaud OBE, it was a life well lived. Marvellous stuff that.