Disregarding former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s ill-fated re-introduction of knights and dames into the Australian honours system, we have not awarded these titles since the 1970s.
Only one Australian has been given a knighthood, that being Don Bradman in 1949 for services to cricket. Bradman and Richard Hadlee of New Zealand are the only two cricketers to be awarded such an honour while still playing the game.
Former Australian captain during the infamous Bodyline series, Bill Woodfull, was offered a knighthood but turned it down. He later recounted that if he had been awarded it for services to education, he would have accepted, but not for playing cricket. He was a renowned educator and school principal.
When Wisden awarded its five cricketers of the last century, all of the recipients were knights except for Shane Warne.
The question has often been asked which Australian cricketers, if any, should have been awarded a knighthood if the title were open to Australians to be nominated and awarded today? Many great Australian players could very well claim to be worthy of the honour, but I’ve chosen three.
While more could have been added to the list, the three I have chosen would be in anyone’s choice of five or ten.
Benaud was known as the doyen of cricket commentary the world over and a name revered in Australia. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1961 for services to cricket and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.
In 1999 Benaud was awarded a Logie for most outstanding sports broadcaster, 2007 saw him inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame at the Allan Border Medal award evening and in 2009 he was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. In 2017 the Australian Mint issued a 50-cent coin commemorating Benaud and in October 2018 he became the 40th legend in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
After playing his 63 Tests he moved into the media, first with the BBC and then with Channel Nine in Australia. He was a key player in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket and was the voice of summer on TV.
Border came to the captaincy at a volatile time for the game in 1984 following the resignation of Kim Hughes. In his then record 156 Tests, Border was Australia’s highest Test run scorer. Known as Captain Grumpy, he was the captain of our first World Cup-winning side in 1987.
Border was one of the 55 inaugural inductees of the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. Although born and bred in New South Wales, in 2009 as part of the Q150 celebrations Border was announced as one of the Q150 icons of Queensland for his role as a ‘sports legend’.
Two cricket grounds have been renamed in Border’s honour. The oval in Mosman, which was directly across from the Border family home and where Border played his early grade cricket, was renamed the Allan Border Oval and remains the home ground of the Mosman District Cricket Club. The Neumann Oval in Brisbane has been renamed Allan Border Field and is occasionally used by Queensland as an alternative home ground to the Gabba.
In 2016, Border was a recipient of the Queensland Greats Award. In a fan poll conducted by the Cricket Australia in 2017 he was named in the country’s best Ashes XI in the last 40 years.
Border became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1986 and an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1989. Our highest cricket award is named after him, as is in part the trophy that India and Australia play for, with Sunil Gavaska.
Shane Warne is one of the five Wisden cricketers of the century and the nation’s second-greatest player behind Bradman. In his 145 Tests he is second on the list of greatest wicket-takers, with 708 to his name. He is in both the ICC Hall of Fame as well as the Cricket Australia Hall of Fame.
In 2007 Cricket Australia and Sri Lanka Cricket decided to name the Australia-Sri Lanka Test cricket series the Warne–Muralitharan Trophy in honour of Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan.
Warne has won titles in different leagues the world over. A noted fundraiser for charity has bought him unwanted negative press at times, as has his colourful lifestyle of the pitch. However, such an outstanding career as well as now being a respected commentator should have him on one knee in front of the Queen tapping the sword on his shoulders.
If the bad boy of English cricket, Ian Botham, can now become a life peer in the House of Lords, the Warne along with Benaud and Border should have been afforded the honour of Knight of the Realm.