Cricket played a significant part in our household when I was a kid. Dad played well into his forties, until one bright Saturday afternoon when he came home sporting a spectacularly blood soaked white shirt from a broken nose. I don’t remember him playing much after that. I suspect a tacit agreement had been made between him and my mother, whereby that dramatic blood stain emphatically signalled a career end.
But it wasn’t quite. He coached. In his time, he coached from the Under fourteens up to the Seniors. And a good coach he was, with great success. He coached players who went on to play District cricket with one representing the state. He endeavoured to teach me the action of an off break and an in swinger. I was a dismal dull headed student and failed to grasp it. (Get it?) But he never gave up trying.
So from the time that the First Test ball was annually launched down the pitch at the Gabba, the TV was turned on and the modulated tones of Richie Benaud could be heard until the end of summer.
I am a bit of a cricket philistine, but I think I have learned more from listening to Shane Warne than I did from Richie. But the reverse sweep of that is that there are some things I would rather not have learned from Wooorneeee. However I could pretty much rely on Richie to protect my delicate ears from crass or crude commentary. He always seemed a class above.
His brown elfin face hinted at a livelier disposition than his self-imposed, refined TV style seemed to disclose. The fact that he was one of the first to overtly celebrate success on the field and wore his shirt unbuttoned and collar turned up, belied the beige.
Over the years he became part of cricket and summer in our house.
Four out of five male descendants of Dad have played cricket. At family get togethers when the bat, ball and bin come out, Jack fields at long off, although he (like me) doesn’t understand the finer points of the game. He is impatient to field and often races in to fetch the ball as it is delivered straight out of the bowler’s hand. But who cares? (Well yes, all the males care.) Jack is hilarious (but not to the men) as he races off with the ball and defies one of the tenets of appropriate, gentlemanly, cricket behaviour. Hey lads it’s holiday time and it’s summer.
But when summer rolls around again and we turn on TV late in November for the first ball to be delivered at the Gabba, one of the gentlemen of the game will not be there. We will miss you Richie.