Friday, April 10, 2015

THE PASSING OF A TRUE GENTLEMAN.



A tribute to the late Richie Benaud by Patrick and Trev.

Richie Benaud.   Oct. 6th 1930 - April 4th. 2015.
It's not often when someone well known to the masses departs this mortal coil, that one sheds the odd tear or two, but when the former Australian cricket captain and television commentator Richard (Richie) Benaud  passed on recentlya part of me died as well and I felt a sadness and a sense of loneliness that brought on a flood of tears.

Richie Benaud epitomised all that was good and wholesome about more than just sport. He had values that some would regard as old fashioned, the basics of which were honesty and fair play in all things.
Listening to his commentary throughout the decades, not once can I recall hearing anyone disagree with his opinions on any subject.
The cobwebs clouding my thoughts and views of the past began to thin out and were responsible for certain recollections.


There were so many of these thoughts speeding through my mind as my memory went into overdrive and those recollections of the past kept on occurring and reoccurring and I decided that out of respect for a great cricketer, a first class commentator and a wonderful human being, I needed to put in writing what effect this legend has had on me throughout my topsy turvy existence.


There was an item online about one of the Test matches being played in England. Before the days play commenced, the usual gathering of TV commentators were in the middle of the oval discussing the condition of the pitch and the weather predictions etc. when Richie appeared at the gate and proceeded to wander slowly towards the centre. A buzz went up around the ground and the mainly English crowd commenced to give him a standing ovation all the way to the pitch. He joined his colleagues in the centre and after a short while he began to return to the commentary position.
Once again the crowd applauded him all the way until he disappeared through the gate and into the crowd.
So much for his popularity.


The strongest and fondest memory was that of the 1960-61 West Indies tour of Australia, when the late and great Sir Frank Worrell and Richie combined to ensure nothing but attacking and entertaining cricket was played. This tour has gone down in history as the the most exciting and by far the best ever undertaken by any cricketing nation.
Australia may have won the series 2-1-1 plus 1 tied match, but the West Indian players won over the crowds. The first test was the tie and ended with Captain Richie and Frank Worrell embracing one another on the playing field. As I type they would be once again embracing each other far from this troubled planet of ours. 
You can bet your boots the two of them would be joined by the former Captain of England Tony Greig and many tall tales would be doing the rounds of whatever  is on the other side.
Richie and Sir Frank after the tied test match. Two fine gentlemen.

The fourth test had Australia requiring 461 runs to win, but with one session of play left, they were 9-207. Ken 'Slasher' Mackay and tailender Lindsay Kline somehow survived the onslaught of Wesley Hall's lightning bolts and the test was drawn. Mackay's chest looked like it had been belted with a giant meat tenderiser. He took many balls on the chest to avoid snicking a catch off the bat.

Before I had put pen to paper however, an email arrived on line from my son and heir Patrick, who it appeared had beaten me to the punch and had penned a warm and beautiful tribute to Richie .
I have never been one who has been short for words, but after reading his eulogy, it would have been impossible for me to have improved on what was said, in fact I would not have been able to produce anything so simple yet, at the same time, wonderful and meaningful so eloquently written in his email.

What follows is the email sent to Gabi and I from our only son Patrick.


Hi M and D,

Trev has a blog. I don't. However this morning after finding out Richie had died, I was a little sad. I wasn't sure why, so I penned the following and posted it on Facebook, which I'm not very active on anymore and don't have a sea of friends on. I don't intend on following Trev's lead or anything, but thought he might like to read, cause he's referenced in it multiple times. Enjoy.

Vale Richie Benaud.

(this will be long and self indulgent. No ones obliging you to read it)

I have a very pragmatic approach to death, whether it be family or celebrity. It happens. From the moment we are born, death is the single predictable outcome to ones future.

When any celebrity or public figure dies, at face value, I suspect most people would assume the impact would and should be insignificant compared to say, a family member and they're are probably right. Some might espouse that the impact of a celebrity death, on regular folk, should be zero.

However in my life, when it comes to Richie Benaud, I don't agree.

I was born in 1975.

My childhood years were concurrent with what is still arguably the most revolutionary period in Cricket's history, World Series Cricket.

Pyjama Cricket is born.

It also happened to coincide with our family's upgrade from Black and White to Colour television.

As a young boy, the sensory overload of transitioning to Colour TV (the significance of this is hard to explain to my kids, compared with modern technology available), coupled with the introduction to sport in my life and being taught that those Green and Gold Pyjamas are as important as those blokes with the Black and Orange jerseys you watched last Winter, left an indelible print on my psyche, that has not left me in almost 40 years.
Green and Gold pyjamas.


Men in Black and Orange jerseys.






The narrators of this life defining era, were my Dad and Richie Benaud.

Those who know me nowadays may find all this at odds with what appears to be my disinterest in all things sporting.

I don't hate sport in general, I simply no longer identify with my perception of what most popular sports have become....Business. Win at all costs. The very idea that, if it's not specifically barred from the rules, let's take that advantage until someone tells us not to. That's modern business ethics right there. Obscene as they are to me and as unsuited as I am to them, it's a dog eat dog world. If you don't take an opportunity because you feel bad, don't whinge when someone takes it from under your nose.

Life's hard. I get it.

However, those values have nothing in common with sportmanhip.

They also aren't consistent with the values I was taught and respected growing up. Don't take what's not yours. Ask. Be polite and respectful to old folk. Be polite and respectful to Police. Behave. (Again, those who know me nowadays may be scratching their heads, but I was a good little kid).

Sport was no different. "Here's the rules of the game son," and what would follow would be a set of rules that when broken, "you hand the ball back, to the other player here son," or to use the cricket reference, "even if the umpire doesn't hear it son, you pick up your bat and walk.

So, early on I got it. Sport was a metaphor and taught you a lot of the lessons you'd need to get through life.

Whilst my Dad taught me those values, Richie Benaud backed them up. He was the soundtrack of the reassurance, the confirmation. Kind of like those specific moments, when you go to your Grandparents for a second opinion, after your parents have given you advice you're not sure about (or more likely don't want to hear) and instead of doing what Grandparents often have the privilege to do, which is to be the good guy, "Here, have a bikkie." and make you feel good, they instead back your Parents 100% and you instantly realise, "Aha! this must be rock solid advice."






The Sydney Cricket Ground Richies salute their idol






There's some great footage to be found of Richie making it very plain what he thought of Greg Chappel's decision to make his brother Trevor bowl underarm in 1981. http://youtu.be/mIL6KZox6Ao
That's how I feel. Still, every time we play New Zealand in ANYTHING, I still think, "Let them win, it's our fault."
Australia's day of shame.

As I grew up, I watched as more and more of my contemporaries "evolved" and the sport as a metaphor for life took a turn I didn't recognise. Sport instead, became a training ground for how to succeed in business. Learn to work together...to beat the snot out of the other team.

There's a couple of ironies here, the first being that I've never been good at any sports and this largely contributes to my confusion as to the differences between what values are taught in sport, to what values are on display and openly accepted in practice. As I write this, it probably directly relates to what I perceive as my last and current career failures, as I am still bewildered as to the disconnect between what I value in myself and my collegues, to what my various Managers have valued over the years. I clearly still don't get it.

The other irony being, that this era of Cricket I'm lauding from my childhood years was the beginnings of the harder sledging era I abhor. Yes, sledging existed way before this, however there's a distinct difference between creative and amusing sledging to rattle a batsman's concentration, to all the recent and very ridiculous posturing and staring down a bloke AFTER he's been bowled out and walking to the Pavilion.

From what I can tell, Richie agreed with me and as such, that means a little piece of the world I once believed in died today.

So today, I am sad.           (Me too son)

That is all.


An Indian tribute to Richie.

Australia's greatest Test Captain and wife Daphne.
 
The world today has become a much poorer place than yesterday.

Rest in peace and may God bless a true gentleman.



1 comment:

Son&Heir said...

Thanks Dad. Glad you liked it.

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