Cricketing and broadcasting legend Richie Benaud dies age 84
Former Australia cricket captain went on to become the game’s most recognised commentator
Former Australia cricket captain and broadcasting legend Richie Benaud has died age 84. Photograph: PA
Former Australia cricket captain and renowned commentator Richie Benaud has died aged 84. He had been receiving treatment for skin cancer since November.
A veteran of 63 Test matches, Benaud played a pivotal role in the formation of World Series Cricket in the 1970s and was one of the world’s most recognised commentators.
Within hours of his death, Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, offered Benaud’s family a state funeral.
Benaud, born in Penrith, New South Wales, enjoyed a successful career as a wily leg-spin bowler and middle-order batsman.
Benaud was the first player to score 2,000 Test runs and take 200 Test wickets yet was as renowned for his captaincy. He led his country in 28 Tests and never lost a series as Australian captain.
After retiring, Benaud became a commentary icon, with the BBC and later for Channel 4 in the UK and also in his native Australia.
He was the mainstay in Australian cricket television commentary until the past two summers - a car accident in 2013 sidelined him before he announced in November last year that he was fighting skin cancer.
“When I was a kid we never ever wore a cap ... because Keith Miller never wore a cap,” Benaud said at the time.
“If I knew, when I was at school and playing in my early cricket days, the problems that would have come if I didn’t do something about protection of the head and using sunscreens and all sorts of things like that, I’d have played it differently.
“It’s one of those things in life: you live and learn as you go along.”
Flags flew at half-mast at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Benaud’s home as a first-class cricketer for New South Wales, and flowers were laid at his statue at the venue.
Abbott described him as the voice of cricket. “Our nation has lost an icon,” he said at a media conference. “ There would be very few Australians who have not passed a summer in the company of Richie Benaud. He was the accompaniment of an Australian summer. His voice was even more present than the chirping of the cicadas in our suburbs and towns and that voice, tragically, is now still.”
Australian Test captain Michael Clarke said Benaud was a gentleman who played cricket in the right spirit.
“He was a great player and a great captain; a wonderful leader of men and he continued that off the field,” Clarke told the Nine Network.
“He loved winning. He helped the Australian team have the attitude where they wanted to win. He played the game the right way.”
“Our country has lost a national treasure,” Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards said in a statement. “After Don Bradman, there has been no Australian player more famous or more influential than Richie Benaud.”
Recruited by Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer in the 1970s, Benaud would become a driving force behind World Series Cricket, his voice lending respectability to the breakaway professional circuit that would ultimately change the game.
“It is only a shame he did not get the send-off he deserved - the game of cricket has not had a chance to say goodbye,” BBC commentator Jonathan Agnew told the broadcaster.
“There will never be another Richie Benaud. He was a one-off.”