Archive for Richie Benaud

R.I.P. Richie Benaud

Posted in Cricket with tags , on April 10, 2015 by telescoper

Just a short post to pay my respects to a great cricketing legend, Richie Benaud, who has died at the age of 84. It’s no surprise that the media are filled with tributes because he was admired by players and spectators alike. He retired as a player way back in 1964, so many would know him  as a commentator, but he was a fine cricketer in his time. A shrewd tactician, he captained Australia with great distinction but was also an excellent leg-spinner, who took 248 wickets in Test matches, and a capable batsman. In fact he was the first cricketer in history to reach 2000 runs and 200 wickets at Test level, in an era when far fewer Test matches were played.

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When he retired from the game as a player he turned to a career in broadcasting and soon established himself as a peerless comentator on the game. The deep knowledge of the game he acquired in his playing years helped of course, but he also had a natural feeling for when to comment and when to just let it happen. Too many commentators feel the urge to babble on during slower passages of play, but Richie Benaud understood the varying tempo of the game too much to spoil the experience with tittle-tattle. He was unfailingly courteous, generous and respectful, but never afraid to be critical when that was justified. His succinct and perceptive expert analyses during the intervals and after the close of play were especially good. I was going to describe him as a “class act” but I don’t think it was an act at all. I never met him in person, but I think he was as much of a gentleman in real life as he was in the commentary box or on the cricket field. His balanced, even-handed commentary won him as many admirers here as he had in his native Austrlia.

He was a regular commentator on English cricket during what passes for summer in the Northern hemisphere until the memorable Ashes series of 2005. He started his career in commentary in 1963, which was the year I was born, and he played a very big part Here are the last few moments of his last appearance as a commentator in England.

Rest in peace, Richie Benaud (1930-2015), and thank you for all you gave to the world of cricket.

Whispering Death

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on April 16, 2011 by telescoper

..and while I’m on the subject of cricket, here’s some examples of one of the all-time greats in action. This is Michael Holding destroying England at the Oval in 1976, when he was only 22. I remember that summer very well, in fact, as  there was a very long and intense heatwave, punctuated by regular visions of England’s cricketers being thrashed by the West Indies;  just look at the parched state of the outfield at the Oval if you don’t believe English summers can be like that!

Holding acquired the nickname “Whispering Death” because his run-up was so smooth and perfectly balanced that you could hardly hear him approaching the wicket, in contrast to some fast bowlers who charged in like a herd of elephants. No arguments, then, with Richie Benaud’s comments on the replay from about 58s onwards. It’s almost as if the phrase “poetry in motion” was invented to describe Michael Holding’s bowling action. I’ll allow anyone – even Brian Cox – to call this awesome.

Note also that this is from an era in which batsmen didn’t wear head protection. Even with a helmet I would have been terrified. Cricket’s not a game for faint hearts…

…  Brian Close had been brought into open the England batting earlier in the series in an attempt to stiffen their resistance to the West Indian attack. He wasn’t the greatest player in the world nor the cricketing world’s most agreeable character, and as you can tell he wasn’t in the first flush of youth in 1976 either, but there is no denying his courage and determination. Here he is enduring a vicious battering at the hands of Michael Holding. One short-pitched delivery in this sequence came within a whisker of hitting him on the head; had it done so the consequences would have been horrendous. As it was, he “only” had to take  a succession of blows to his body. He scored 20 runs at Old Trafford, off 108 balls in 162 minutes, and was dropped for the next Test as was his opening partner John Edrich,  although both had stood their ground and defended their wickets (and themselves) manfully.

Has there ever been another bowler with an action as beautiful as Michael Holding? I don’t think so, but you’re welcome to disagree through the comments box!


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