The late Richie Benaud was viewed by many as being No.1 behind a microphone.
AAP Images.
The late Richie Benaud was viewed by many as being No.1 behind a microphone. AAP Images. AAP IMAGES

Test stars celebrate Richie Benaud's marvellous innings

CRICKET: It was Richie Benaud's unwavering loyalty, generosity, dry wit and commitment to the facts that former Australian Test spinner Murray Bennett will always remember about the cricketing and broadcasting legend.

Benaud's death after a long battle with skin cancer at 84 drew tributes from all around the world for his grace, charm and professionalism as a commentator.

New South Wales premier Mike Baird asked for flags to be flown at half-mast for a man viewed as one of the best broadcasters - and not just in the sporting world - of all time.

But it was Benaud's simple and uncomplicated way of describing the game that Bennett, who played three Tests for Australia as a left-arm orthodox spinner, will always remember.

"I remember hearing Richie call 'Dutchy' (Bob) Holland's Test debut in England at Lord's (in 1985) as a 38-year-old, and Richie saying, 'this is something he can proudly tell his grandkids about'," Bennett told APN.

"Then Dutchy got out first ball and there was some silence from Richie.

"Then he calmly said 'maybe he won't tell his grandchildren about that'.

"He always had this great dry sense of humour."

In an industry which can ruin careers because of its abrasive criticism, Bennett was always taken aback by Benaud's generosity.

"I was playing in a McDonald's Cup (domestic one-day match for New South Wales) game one day, Richie was calling and I bowled a short ball that got hit through the covers for four," Bennett said.

"Richie commented, 'that's the first short ball I've seen Bennett bowl'.

"I just thought 'wow, maybe Rich hasn't seen me bowl that much'.

"It was a real positive, nice thing to say. I thought that was fantastic of him.

"He never said anything flippant. He researched all his facts meticulously - I think that was the journalist (Benaud started his media career as a journalist at the Sydney Sun in 1956) in him."

Bennett, who is a director and senior account manager at Warren Saunders Insurance Brokers in Sydney, remembers Benaud as a fiercely loyal man.

"Warren (founder of the company) actually used to captain New South Wales, so he and Richie were close friends for 45 years," Bennett said.

"And at every company golf day Warren organised, a very busy man like Richie went to all of them bar one."

Former Test and New South Wales star off-spinning all-rounder Greg Matthews said Benaud was undoubtedly No.1 behind a microphone.

"Communities all around the world respected him - Richie was cool in the gay community," Matthews said.

"And if you're cool in the gay community, then you're really cool.

"He was like David Attenborough - he was universally respected. Richie was the bomb.

"He was the leader of the tribe, and just a glamour - he was this gorgeous, handsome man who wore Brylcreem in his hair.

"There was (fellow broadcasting legend, the late) Alan McGilvray, and there was Benaud (both in the same league).

"He made wearing the beige jacket look cool."


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