Aug. 27: Those in the line of fire often complain of “armchair critics”. Richie Benaud, the legendary cricket commentator, may now give a new spin to the term.
Benaud could commentate on Australia’s Test series this summer against India from his home if he is not fit enough to be at the ground, his boss said in Sydney today.
The 83-year-old former Australia captain, who has worked in the commentary box since retiring from Test cricket in 1964, suffered chest and shoulder injuries during a car crash late last year. It prevented him from commentating during the Ashes series against England last summer.
Channel Nine has the cricket TV rights in Australia and chief executive David Gyngell told The Sydney Morning Herald that Benaud was so important he could commentate from his Sydney home.
“That’s what I’ve put to him,” Gyngell said. “If he’s not up to calling from the ground this summer, I’d like him to call from home. He’d be the ultimate armchair caller from the couch, wouldn’t he? If I have my way, he will be calling it from his home but it is completely his decision.”
Benaud made his broadcasting debut on BBC Radio in 1960, moved across to BBC Television three years later and became a full-time cricket journalist and commentator when his playing career ended in 1964.
He hung up the microphone for British television following the 2005 Ashes series and received a standing ovation from the crowd at Lord’s.
Commentator Kishore Bhimani said Benaud should be “left alone now”. “His voice is going. He is not as quick to react as he used to be. And it’s not as if he is irreplaceable. Would (Sunil) Gavaskar or Kapil Dev be able to perform if they were asked to play for India now?” Bhimani asked.
Bhimani likened Benaud to great commentators like Berry Sarbadhikari (“Berryda”) from Calcutta, Omar Kureishi from Pakistan, Brian Johnston and John Arlott.
In Australia, many consider Benaud a “national treasure”. The Herald is conducting an online poll that asks: “Who is the biggest household name — Sir Donald Bradman or Richie Benaud?” Benaud had polled 45 per cent votes by Tuesday night.
Arun Lal, a commentator and former player, recalled how Benaud would pronounce “two”. He would say “Tiu tiu tiu for tiu” when the score was 222/2.
“He would get the sense across using very few words. ‘Super shot that’, for example,” said Lal.
Lal, however, was “not sure” how the commentary from home would work and described the proposal as a bid to honour “the guru of commentary”.