The world of cricket, and indeed the wider world of sport, has lost one of its greatest voices following the sad passing of Richie Benaud. Richie Benaud was arguably the iconic voice of cricket over a period spanning 40 years of commentating, in which he lit up the sporting summers of cricket fans in particular, and fans of sport as a whole. Richie brought a wealth of experience to his commentary following a distinguished playing career, in which he was the first player to achieve the double of 2,000 and 200 wickets. Also adding to his experience was the fact of him being unbeaten in a series while being the Australian captain.
Richie was welcomed into people’s homes through his commentary as a result of his laid-back and friendly style in the commentary box. Cricket fans were never talked down to by Richie, and he never spoke during his commentaries just for the sake of speaking, everything he said was there to ‘paint the picture of the cricket as it unfolded’ and it was there to inform those who were following the game.
As a player Richie achieved high standards, playing 63 tests for Australia and captaining them in 28 tests. Richie played 259 first class matches, scoring 11,719 first class runs at an average of 36.50 with 23 centuries. Richie also took 945 wickets during his playing career. However, it is possibly through his commentating that Richie was wider known to the sporting, and in particular cricketing world.
There are few sports people who are outstanding in their chosen sport, who upon retiring prove to also be outstanding when they take up a commentating role. The number who then prove to be truly exceptional as a commentator are even fewer, and it is into this category that Richie Benaud belongs.
As the headline of this article asks, ‘Was Richie Benaud arguably the greatest sports commentator of all time?’, it is only fair to name some other iconic sports commentators to provide a comparison. Bill McLaren is widely regarded as the voice of rugby through his commentating on Rugby Union. Barry Davies is held in high esteem by legions of football fans for his relaxed and informed football commentating style. Motor racing fans will rightly mention Murray Walker as being an icon in the world of commentating. In any list of great sports commentators there must be a place for David Coleman, who unlike many sports commentators was able to commentate with authority on a wide variety of sports, not just football or athletics.
There will always be an argument as to who the greatest sports commentator of all time is or was, but one thing that everyone should agree on is that Richie Benaud fully deserves his place amongst the greats of sports commentators.