25 September 2023

Benaud: An Appreciation

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Brian Matthews, Text Publishing, $29.99.

How accurate is this statement: ‘when it comes to Australian cricket, it can be said that only Don Bradman has been a more influential figure than Richie Benaud’.

An inspiring captain, Benaud was the dashing exponent of leg spin, a prolific writer about the game, but he was also an intensely private individual.

‘To generations Richie Benaud was an astute observer of cricket, a fixture of television coverage. Behind the public façade was a charming man whose modesty and firmness of opinion dictated that no one would write his official biography — and no friend of his should help an unofficial biographer.’

For Matthews, writing about Benaud was an “engaging” topic, but when there’s opposition, then perseverance pays off.

He said he decided on a “different tack, one that would fully honour Benaud’s objection to biography, but still afford a fair picture of the man and his achievements”.

“I would begin with a chapter, point-counterpoint, telling how it all started, and then go on o show Richie Benaud aspired to and achieved mastery of his art, and how, in doing so, he changed he face of the game he loved, revolutionized the ways in which its innumerable charms, complexities and ritual were communicated, and became its welcoming voice and encouraging patron from rough-and-ready suburban ovals to the most famous Test arenas in the cricketing world. This would be anything but a biography: it would be a celebration.”

After he retired in 1964, Benaud was a key player in his sport’s greatest revolution — establishing the World Series cricket.

Favourably written with earnest sketches, instincts and anecdotes, sporting fans in particular, will find this a cracking read.

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