Richie Benaud was a class apart

He was loved all over the cricketing world because he didn't belong to that tribe.

 |  2-minute read |   13-04-2015
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With the passing of Richie Benaud, the game of cricket has not only lost one of its most flamboyant cricketers, but a commentator who brought forth the many virtues of the game in a measured, impartial manner. 

That last bit about being impartial is extremely tough, especially if you have also been a cricketer yourself. When you have represented your country, however many years may pass, but there is always a bit of you in that dressing room, and so invariably when you are observing and speaking about the game, a little bit of bias does creep in, however hard you try to be neutral. Richie was loved all over the world just for that reason alone, for he was neutral to the point of being disinterested in what was happening in the game.

It would truly be interesting to get hold of recordings of BBC radio commentary of the 1960s when Richie began his broadcasting career and to see if he was detached from his beloved Australian team as he was seen to be when listeners and viewers heard him later. Richie was also always willing to help if you approached him. In my first stint as a TV commentator for BBC in 1990, Richie was the one whose brain I picked. Right from how to hold the mike to when to speak and when to pause, he guided me with a smile.

I was on air when Graham Gooch reached his 300 against India at Lord's. Richie was the lead while I was the colour commentator, so as soon as Gooch reached his 300, he described it. Then when I picked up my mic to speak, he just raised his hand slightly and indicated that I should not say anything. After about 30 seconds or so, he raised his hand once again and indicated that I should speak. At the end of the over, he explained why he had done that.

He said that because there was heavy applause on Gooch reaching the rare landmark, that was what should come through to the viewers and listeners who could also savour the moment, and once the applause was dying down then I could speak and I would then not intrude on the special moment. It was fantastic advice and I have never forgotten it.

TV commentary has changed considerably since those days and today, a commentator is encouraged to speak just about every moment. Those were the days when you were told that if you had nothing to add to the picture, then you let the picture do the talking. There are plenty of commentators who like to hear their own voice and some who think that they are the only ones who know about the game. Richie was Richie and loved all over the cricketing world because he did not belong to that tribe. RIP Richie!

Writer

Sunil Gavaskar Sunil Gavaskar @excricketr

Former cricketer who played during the 70s and 80s for Bombay cricket team and India.

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