If John Arlott was for most English cricket-lovers the quintessential voice of the game on radio, so it has been with Richie Benaud on television. Despite being an Australian, and a former captain of the deadly Ashes rivals to boot, he was voted overwhelmingly as the nation's favourite commentator in a 2005 poll, but that was the last season he broadcast live in this country, ending a span of 42 years, after Sky acquired the Test rights.
Some of the territory he covers will be familiar to readers of his earlier books, but he still writes freshly about his early life in a remote outpost of New South Wales and the characters he played with and against on his journey to the top as a leg-spinner and attacking middle-order batsman.
A player's player, he had little time for the alickadoo administrators he encountered, rather more time for a drink and a punt on the horses when relaxing, without ever taking his eye off his cricketing objectives. Turning his beady eye to the current state of the game, Benaud is anything but conservative: he embraces Twenty20, with minor reservations, and although famously he has never broadcast on pay-per-view TV, his analysis of the financial problems for the lower levels of the game if Tests and/or Ashes series are ring-fenced for free-to-air viewing only is acute. In The Best Views from the Boundary: Test Match Special's Greatest Interviews (Corinthian, £14.99), John Paul Getty Jnr said: "I admire Richie Benaud as a television commentator – I think he's the very best." He was no slouch as a cricketer, either, and in both roles his fundamental decency and deep understanding of the game shone through, as they do in this book. He celebrated his 80th birthday a few days ago; may there be more birthdays, and more books.
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