Tributes poured in today for legendary Australian cricketer and commentator Richie Benaud, who has died at 84.
The former all-rounder had been battling skin cancer and recovering from the after-effects of a car accident in 2013.
He was as revered in England, where he worked on television from 1963 to 2005, as he was in his homeland.
Benaud captained Australia at the Scarborough Cricket Festival in 1961, and he also struck an imperious 135 for the tourists at the Festival in 1953, a knock that came in 110 minutes and included 11 sixes, against a TN Pierce’s X!.
Yorkshire County Cricket Club president and Scarborough Cricket Club vice-president Dickie Bird, a close friend of Benuad, said that cricket had lost “the very best.”
He said: “He was a great friend of mine and the king of commentary.
“An an era of wonderful commentators like Henry Longhurst in golf, and Brian Johnston and John Arlott in cricket, he was the very best. Not only was he a great cricketer, and captain of Australia, he was a professional at his job. When he went into commentating and journalism he took to it like a duck to water.
“There’s never been one like him and never will be again.”
Scarborough CC chairman Bill Mustoe said: “While I never saw Richie play or met him, his voice was synonymous with cricket and he made a huge impression on the sport as a player, captain and a commentator.
“We are very fortunate at Scarborough because so many of the world’s best players, past and present, have played at North Marine Road. From the likes of Richie Benaud back in the 1950s and 1960s to the current Australian coach Darren Lehmann.
“Richie Benaud had the kind of voice that you instantly associated with the sport, from a generation of great sports commentators such as Peter Alliss for golf and Murray Walker for Formula One.
“He also had a great sense of humour and he realised that it was best to let the pictures tell a story.”
Scarborough cricket fan Teddy Sulman added: “I can remember sitting in front of the press box for the TN Pearce’s XI v Australia cricket festival game when Richie Benaud hit four sixes from the first four balls of a Roy Tattersall over. I then saw him caught out by Peter May, just in front of where I was sat.”
Benaud, who played 63 Test Matches for Australia between 1952 and 1964 and also led his country on 28 occasions, and was described by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) today as “one of the foremost cricketing figures of the post-war era, a leg-spinning all-rounder and a shrewd and innovative captain.”
The MCC flag at Lords, the home of cricket, was flying at half mast today.
ECB chairman Giles Clarke said: “Cricket has lost perhaps its greatest advocate and someone who was a true giant of the modern game. Richie was a marvellously talented cricketer who in the early part of his career 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; a supremely gifted broadcaster, journalist and author.
“It is humbling to think that Richie was involved in more than 500 Test matches as a player or a commentator. 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 both in this country and across the world.”
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.
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 and former Yoprkshire cricketer 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.”