Richie Benaud

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Richie Benaud : biography

6 October 1930 –

Richard "Richie" Benaud OBE ( born 6 October 1930) is a former Australian cricketer who, since his retirement from international cricket in 1964, has become a highly regarded commentator on the game.

Benaud was a Test cricket all-rounder, blending thoughtful leg spin bowling with lower-order batting aggression. Along with fellow bowling all-rounder Alan Davidson, he helped restore Australia to the top of world cricket in the late 1950s and early 1960s after a slump in the early 1950s. In 1958 he became Australia’s Test captain until his retirement in 1964.

Gideon Haigh described him as "… perhaps the most influential cricketer and cricket personality since the Second World War." In his review of Benaud’s autobiography Anything But, Sri Lankan cricket writer Harold de Andrado wrote: "Richie Benaud possibly next to Sir Don Bradman has been one of the greatest cricketing personalities as player, researcher, writer, critic, author, organiser, adviser and student of the game."

He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1961 for services to cricket.

In 2007, he was inducted in the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame at the Allan Border Medal award evening and in 2009 he was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

Peak years and captaincy

After a break in the international calendar of a year, the 1957-58 tour to South Africa heralded the start of a phase of three international seasons when Benaud was at his peak. The tour saw his bowling talents come to the fore when he took 106 wickets, surpassing the previous record of 104 by England’s Sydney Barnes. He scored 817 runs including four centuries, two of them in Test matches. The first of these came in the First Test at Johannesburg, where after conceding 1/115, Benaud struck 122, his highest Test score, to see Australia reach a draw. In the Second Test at Cape Town, Benaud took 4/95 and then 5/49 in the second innings to secure an innings victory after the home team were forced to follow on. He followed this with 5/114 in a drawn Third Test, before a match-winning all round performance in the Fourth Test in Johannesburg. Benaud struck exactly 100 in the first innings, before taking 4/70 in South Africa’s reply. When South Africa followed on, Benaud took 5/84, which left Australia needing only one run to win. He took 5/82 in the second innings of the Fifth Test, the fourth consecutive match in which he had taken five wickets in an innings, as Australia took a 3-0 series win. He had been a major contributor to the series win, scoring 329 runs at 54.83 and taking 30 wickets at 21.93, establishing himself as one of the leading leg spinners of the modern era.

When Ian Craig fell ill at the start of the 1958-59 season, Benaud was promoted to the captaincy ahead of vice-captain Neil Harvey. Harvey and Benaud had been captains of their respective states until Harvey moved in the same season for employment purposes from Victoria to New South Wales and became Benaud’s deputy. Benaud had little prior leadership experience, and faced the task of recovering the Ashes from an England team which had arrived in Australia as favourites. He led from the front with his bowling, taking match figures of 7/112 in his debut as captain as Australia claimed the First Test in Brisbane. Benaud’s men won the Second Test, before he took 5/83 and 4/94 in the drawn Third Test. Benaud produced an all-round performance of 46, 5/91 and 4/82 in the Fourth Test in Adelaide to take an unassailable 3-0 series lead and regain the Ashes, before scoring 64 and match figures of 5/57 to help take the Fifth Test and a 4-0 series result. Benaud contributed 132 runs at 26.4 and 31 wickets at the low average of 18.83, as well as his shrewd and innovative captaincy.

He then led Australia on its first full tour of the Indian subcontinent, playing three and five Tests against Pakistan and India respectively. Benaud took 4/69 and 4/42 in the First Test in Dhaka (now in Bangladesh), sealing Australia’s first win in Pakistan. He took four wickets in a Second Test in Lahore that sealed the series 2-0, the last time Australia would win a Test in Pakistan until Mark Taylor’s men in 1998, 37 years later. Six further wickets in the drawn Third Test saw Benaud end the series with 84 runs at 28 and 18 wickets at 21.11. Benaud made a strong start to the series against India, taking 3/0 in the first innings of the First Test in Delhi, before a 5/76 second innings haul secured an innings victory. Benaud had less of an impact on the next two Tests, which Australia lost and drew, totalling 6/244. He returned to form with 5/43 and 3/43 as India were defeated by an innings after being forced to follow on in the Fourth Test in Madras. A further seven wickets from the captain in the Fifth Test saw Australia secure a draw and the series 2-1. Benaud had contributed 91 runs at 15.16 and 29 wickets at 19.59. The first two seasons of the Benaud captaincy had been a resounding success, with Australia winning eight, drawing four and losing only one Test. Benaud’s personal form was a major factor in this success. In the previous seasons when he and his team were at their peak, he had scored 636 runs at 31.8 with taken 108 wickets at 20.27 in eighteen Tests, averaging six wickets a match.