Lords tribute follows Benaud death
Published 10/04/2015 | 02:36
The MCC flag at Lords, the home of cricket, was flying at half mast today as tributes were paid to the former Australia captain and broadcaster Richie Benaud who has died aged 84.
Sporting stars and fans, including the Prime Minister, remembered a cricketing hero who never lost a series while leading his country and went on to become one of the game's best loved voices.
Benaud's wit and economy of style epitomised summer and cricket on the TV for millions of fans around the world, and he was as revered as much in England, where he worked on TV from 1963 to 2005, as he was at home.
David Cameron said on Twitter: "I grew up listening to Richie Benaud's wonderful cricket commentary. Like all fans of the sport, I will miss him very much."
His Australian counterpart Tony Abbott said: "A sad day for Australia. We have lost a cricketing champion and Australian icon. What an innings. RIP Richie Benaud."
And Labour leader Ed Miliband added: "Richie Benaud was one of the great voices of my childhood. A superb all-rounder, captain and commentator."
Benaud's leg-spin claimed 248 wickets and he scored 2,201 runs in 63 Tests - the first cricketer to reach 200 wickets and surpass 2,000 runs at that level - but when he turned broadcaster, he was not one to hark back to his own great successes.
Indeed, Benaud was loved for his brevity, letting the action speak for itself.
He once told fellow broadcasters: "Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what's on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up."
He offered warmer words of advice for his TV peers, saying: "Above all don't take yourself too seriously and have fun."
Sky commentator and former England captain Mike Atherton said: "One of the first things he said to me was 'you're a guest in somebody's front room for six hours a day, so try not to irritate them'."
Benaud, dubbed the Voice of Cricket, stopped commentating two years ago following a car accident and had been treated for skin cancer.
His place in the game's pantheon of greats was cemented by then.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann said: "The fact Australia never lost a series under his captaincy says so much and those standards were just as high when he turned his attention to calling the game.
"We loved listening to him commentate when the team was together in the dressing room. When he was on air, we always had the TV volume turned up because his comments were so insightful."
He mentored Shane Warne in the art of leg-spin, and took delight in seeing him burst on to the international stage in 1993.
When Mike Gatting was bowled by Warne's unplayable first delivery against England, Benaud remarked pithily: "Gatting has absolutely no idea what has happened to him."
Warne went on to become his country's leading wicket-taker, a record once held by his mentor.
Warne paid tribute to his friend on Instagram, saying: "As a cricketer, commentator & as a person, you were the best there's ever been & to top it off, an absolute gentleman ...
"For me it was an honour & a privilege to call you a close friend & mentor, we had so many wonderful times together, talking cricket & in particular, our love & passion of leg spin bowling."
England coach Peter Moores added: "Richie sums up all that is great about our sport.
"He was a true gentleman with a real insight into the game and his enthusiasm for the sport made you want to get off the sofa and play. He will be sorely missed."
England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke said: "Cricket has lost perhaps its greatest advocate and a true giant of the modern game.
"Richie was a marvellously talented cricketer who gave much to the Australian team as a player and a leader.
"But he will always, above all, be remembered as one of cricket's most influential and authoritative voices. Few could match the breadth of knowledge and insight he brought to the commentary box; and all leavened by his marvellous dry wit which millions came to know and love."
And Cricket Australia said: "Rest In Peace Richie Benaud, Forever the voice of our summer."
Hollywood actor Russell Crowe tweeted: "RIP Richie Benaud. My deep gratitude for all you gave to the sport of cricket as a player and as a broadcaster. Sad, sad day."
Such was his popularity hundreds of "Richies" would don fancy dress - beige suit, grey wigs and homemade Channel Nine microphones - for Tests in Sydney. The group hope to get 700 lookalikes at a game in January.
Benaud's health had suffered in recent years, after he sustained rib and spine injuries in October 2013 when he drove his vintage 1963 Sunbeam Alpine into a garden wall in Coogee.
A planned comeback to the commentary box around a year later was then put on ice after he revealed he was undergoing treatment for melanomas on his forehead, scalp and neck.
After his diagnosis, he regretted never wearing a cap while playing cricket to protect his head from the sun.
Australian media reported he died in a Sydney hospice with his wife Daphne and family around him.