INTERVIEW WITH RICHIE BENAUD
Richie Benaud's career stretches back to 1949 when he made his debut at 18 for New South
Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground on New Year's Day. Benaud was captain of Australia's
cricket team for 28 Tests between 1958 and 1963, never losing a series. In December 1963
Benaud became the first player in the history of cricket to do the double of 200 wickets
and 2,000 runs in Tests. He is one of 10 Australian cricketers to score more that 10,000
runs and take 500 wickets in first class cricket. Richie began broadcasting cricket on BBC
Radio in 1960 and then moved across to BBC Television three years later, where he has become
the voice of televised cricket in Britain. He has also led the commentary team for Channel
9, Australia since 1977. Currently he is covering the England v New Zealand Test Series for
Richie Benaud's career stretches back to 1949 when he made his debut at 18 for New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground on New Year's Day. Benaud was captain of Australia's cricket team for 28 Tests between 1958 and 1963, never losing a series. In December 1963 Benaud became the first player in the history of cricket to do the double of 200 wickets and 2,000 runs in Tests. He is one of 10 Australian cricketers to score more that 10,000 runs and take 500 wickets in first class cricket. Richie began broadcasting cricket on BBC Radio in 1960 and then moved across to BBC Television three years later, where he has become the voice of televised cricket in Britain. He has also led the commentary team for Channel 9, Australia since 1977. Currently he is covering the England v New Zealand Test Series for Channel 4."Anything But: an Autobiography" is Richie's latest book. You can order it online through our CricShop.
Paperback - Coronet (ISBN: 0340696494)
Buy now with CricShop
THE INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT IN FULL
Alex A question many people have asked by email: Who are the top players of all time or modern era?
R Benaud Bradman was the greatest batsman, the greatest all rounder was Gary Sobers, but the best with whom I played in the time I was active was Keith Miller. I only played against Sobers in 55 and 61 when he had yet to reach his peak. Miller was the best I played with and against. Turning to modern players: outstanding modern bowlers are McGrath and Donald. Warne is not quite back to his best. Kallis is the best all rounder in the world right now. Tendulkar and Lara the two best batsmen, and the things Lara did against the Aussies were astonishing, as was the case with Tendulkar when Australia played India. They have different styles, if you tried to match them on video Tendulkar just shades Lara, but you have to take into account Lara against Australia. We're lucky to have both of them.
Feroz Lakhani What do you think is the main difference between cricketers of today and yesteryear?
R Benaud Difficult to provide a definitive answer. Good players in any era would be able to play in any other era. Conditions are so different now: then there were covered pitches, different types of balls and different equipment. Nonetheless I've high regard for modern players. Bradman would have been good still, though it's possible he wouldn't have made as many runs. On reflection, I think perhaps he would have made as many runs but it would have taken him longer. There are more defensive field placings now and instead of 120 overs in the day only 90.
majid Being a leg spinner yourself who do you think is the greatest leg spinner of all time and why?
R Benaud Of his type Warne is the best I've ever seen. O'Reilly was the best of his type, bowling at almost slow medium, and Grimmett was also a great bowler. When Warne got his 300th wicket I said if he stayed fit, he might get 600. But his shoulder injury has come into it and that will be a determining factor in how long he plays. His injuries came about because of so much work - I had the same problem, the same injury. There was no operation available in my time and I could have played for another three or four years had there been one.
Alex Many people have asked why there hasn't been a genuine Aussie all-rounder since your era...
R Benaud There have been plenty Australian all-rounders, but generally batting all-rounders and Alan Davidson and myself were bowling all-rounders. The dearth of bowling all-rounders might be because you have to work harder to be a bowling all-rounder than a batting all-rounder.
Paul Kirby My son Ben loves his cricket, and bowling particularly. At what age do you think he should choose to specialise, perhaps to be a spinner like his hero...Muralitharan?
R Benaud If a youngster is going to bowl offspin or medium pace he can do it at any age but legspin should be avoided before a bowler is twelve because youngsters' wrists and fingers aren't strong enough and there's a risk of damage. Youngsters do need to be carefully handled. It's possible to bowl too much as a youngster and you can damage your back and other limbs. As far as specialisation is concerned you can only specialise naturally, you can't make someone a specialist if he's not suited.
CI As captain your team always outfielded the opposition. You always talk about how important fielding is. Who is the best outfielder you've ever seen ? Viv? Jonty? Harper?
R Benaud You need to bear in mind that my teams only ever played Test cricket. They were always brilliant in the field but that is being brilliant in the longer version of the game. As a fielder Neil Harvey has never been bettered. In modern times with all the sliding and throwing Ponting, Rhodes and a dozen others are quite brilliant. If you go back to my era we were brilliant at what we did, people were fielding in greater numbers in the slips and gulley in my time, but in the modern game there are different field placings. I think we would have been able to adjust without trouble if we'd had to.
Hussein Ansari Hi Richie how is life? My question for you is that you led the side that defeated Pakistan in a test series in Pakistan. This feat was later achieved by Mark Taylor after a long gap of 39 years. Tell me why do you think was it difficult for a quality side such as Australia to defeat Pakistan for such a long while? Was it the pitch condition, weather, crowds, pressure or what?
R Benaud Our difficulty in 1959-60 was that two of the three Tests were played on the mat and it was the first time Pakistan had been beaten on the mat. In the main it was a case of conditions. Pakistan played better than Australia in Pakistan and the reverse is true in Australia.
Eric W McClymont Dear Mr Benaud, you have seen many test matches over the years but could you clear up a point for me. The 1948 Aussie side that toured England won 5-0. How would you compare it with the West Indies side of 1984 that also toured England and won 5-0. In the equation also how do they compare with Warwick Armstrong's side?
R Benaud The four best teams I've ever seen or read about were 1948 Bradman, 1920-21 Armstrong, 1984 Lloyd, and 1974,5,6 Ian Chappell. 1948 Bradman and 1984 Lloyd were the best. It would be some encounter to match the two.
Wayne Roberts During the last Test you were talking about the LBW rule and the committee looking into changing it so you can be LBW playing a shot if the ball hits you outside off stump. You suggested that this was a bad thing and would mean games would be over inside 3 days. If you could change one law to improve the game of cricket, what would it be and why?
R Benaud If I could make one change it would be to stop administrators fiddling with the laws. The administrators should try to avoid fiddling with the laws. This lbw idea is not as stupid as the front foot law, which came in in the early 1960s as a knee jerk reaction, and has wasted more spectators' watching time than anything else known in cricket. The front foot situation was handled perfectly in 1961 when we toured England. Umpires Sid Buller and Eddie Philipson set the tone in the first match at Worcester and there was one no ball recorded throughout the whole series
mickdl You made field changes before the ball had touched a bat in your first Test as captain. Who influenced you to be aggressive as a batsman, bowler and captain? Did someone teach you to be aggressive or was it just enthusiasm for the game?
R Benaud My father gave me enthusiasm and knowledge and Keith Miller gave me the practical experience and showed me what to do.
Patto Hi Richie! I was wondering if you think Slater should be in the ODI squad for someone like Lehmann. When he was playing ODI cricket for Australia he was brilliant. I know Gilly and Waugh are great now but maybe he could come in at a number 5 or 6. What do you think?
R Benaud I think it's extraordinary that Slater who is one of the best attacking players in the world can't get a game in the team in a form of the game where attack is the focal point. I wouldn't zero in on Lehmann though because he is a very good cricketer but I think Slater has been hard done by.
Vadhiraj Hi Ritchie. I very much like your commentary. Nowadays I don't know why you are not seen frequently in the idiot box.I have three questions: 1. Whom do you think is the best batsman of the 3Ws you have played against? 2.What was your feeling when the catch (last wicket) was dropped due to a collision between Wes Hall and Rohan Kanhai in the famous tied Test? 3. Whom do you rate as the perfect gentleman of all the cricketers you have mingled with? And why?
R Benaud I thought Weekes was the best of the three but there would be arguments for the others and don't forget how well Walcott did in 1955. The catch with Wes Hall whipping the ball away from Kanhai (there was no collision) was a real heart stopper. In answer to the final question, most of the cricketers I played with and against have been gentlemen though never perfect.
Glove How do you feel the Australian's performance throughout the World Cup was?
R Benaud The Australians finished up playing brilliantly winning seven on the trot. It was an extraordinary performance and enormous credit is due to Steve Waugh after what was a very ordinary start.
Paul Bailey Richie, in your book you speak a little about commentators on other sports that you admire. What do you think makes a good commentator, and whose cricket commentary do you enjoy listening to when you are not broadcasting?
R Benaud There are a lot of different aspects of cricket commentary that are important. The most important is if you can't add to the picture on the screen then shut up. There's no particular commentator I enjoy more than others and I work well (I think) with every other commentator. I've enjoyed Alliss on golf, Maskell on tennis, and Henry Longhurst. There's a different style in sport these days which involves more talking. I've never regretted that I retired aged 34 and one of the great benefits I've had before and since was to be a journalist. I've always thoroughly enjoyed writing but television is the most difficult thing I do. All media is different these days compared with when I played and first wrote about the game and it will become more different with TV and virtual TV and advertising. The revolution came in TV because of the World Series and everyone followed Channel Nine from that point on. They've also produced their own innovations in different parts of the world. Channel 4 in England are using 22 cameras and more video tape machines than ever before and there will be constant improvements along those lines.
Murari What are your memories of bowling May around his legs at Old Trafford, 1961?
R Benaud The May dismissal was quite deliberate though you need to bear in mind it might not work as you plan when you set out to bowl someone from outside leg. It only came about because I was bowling around the wicket. It couldn't have happened if I had been bolwing over the wicket.
Alex What do you feel about betting and cricket?
R Benaud I can say that I've never had a bet on a cricket match and I would never put my money on anything that can talk. I think that at the moment the match fixing and associated matters under judicial enquiry are the worst thing I've known in cricket in all the time I've been playing, watching and commentating. I need to add there: if they are shown to be true.
Alex Your book mentions many administrators and the mistakes they have made. What makes the perfect cricket administrator?
R Benaud You need to bear in mind that there have been a lot of players who know a lot about the game who may make excellent administrators but there is no guarantee because as players they might have had a fault in their make up. Administration is largely unpaid and there is no perfect administrator in the same way as there have never been perfect players or media people but I would have as a guideline that every aspect under consideration should be thought through for possible problems. In general the biggest problem with administration is that thinking through problems comprehensively is not done.
Crickadi At the turn of the millenium, which aspect of the game do you think needs improving?
R Benaud The one thing I would like to see happen is a World Championship of Test cricket but the logistical problems are so vast that it may not be possible. You would have to have each two teams playing against one another home and away and with nine Test playing countries and a possible tenth, I don't think it can be done, but I hope I'm wrong.
Andre Migliarina South African cricket has embarked on a development programme that aims for racial parity in all facets of the sport. Is the quota system the way forward or should a national side be picked from the best players available?
R Benaud I've been interested to see whats happening in South Africa and the obvious answer is that everything should be on merit but, as that wasn't the case for so many years, I think the current ideas are excellent and I think they will be carried out with common sense. I took a team to South Africa as manager in 1976 but only agreed to do so providing there were three non white players in every team we played against. That caused plenty of ructions but I can tell you that the three players underlined that there was some outstanding talent there unable to get into the provincial teams. Having seen the recent ideas and knowing what we did in 1976, I had a wry smile when I compared the two.
joycer Speaking of bowlers, what about fast bowlers? My son is 11 and bowls at 80kpm, is there a risk of 'overuse' of the arm and how do we best avoid strain?
R Benaud If you're son is 11 and bowls at 50mph you need to be very careful with him and don't under any circumstances allow him to be overbowled. Problems can easily arise with the arm as well as back and side muscles.
R Benaud OK that concludes matters for today. Goodbye and I'm sorry to finish. Thanks all.
CI Thank you very much for taking the time out to answer questions Richie. Sorry to those folks who didn't quite get questions in.