12 September 2005

Richie Benaud and The Ashes

Yes, so I know, all of us who aren't REAL cricket fans have suddenly found religion, but today is a monumental day indeed.

First of all, as I write this, the final test match of this series is going down to the wire, with betting odds changing by the minute. Whatever the result, this will have been the best series ever. I may not quite feel like writing that later on, but there is little doubt that it is true. Even Americans could have come to like the game based on watching this!

Perhaps though there is a little to feel slightly melancholic about.

Today represents the last day of live coverage of home test matches on terrestrial free-to-air TV. We haven't had away matches for some years but I think it very sad that those growing up today will not be able to experience what we have all had over the years (will the next generation of heroes in the mould of Botham and Flintoff be Sky subscribers?). It is ironic that the last series should have been so good and rekindled such interest in the country as a whole.

The other end of an era as well is the retirement of Richie Benaud from broadcasting (at least in the UK). I don't think there is a test match that I have watched on TV that Richie has not commented on! He's been on our tv's for 42 years! Isn't that incredible? That is my whole lifetime (at least that I can remember) of watching cricket. He has such a great manner - so impartial, yet so incisive as well. And of course, we shouldn't forget his first career as a superb cricketer as well. Seeing him being interviewed at the lunchtime session today shows what a great guy he is. He quoted advice from his mother (still alive at over 100 today!) to "do your best but never take yourself too seriously"! It's also fascinating to see that he's stayed on terrestrial free-to-air tv for his whole career, I'm sure, foregoing the temptation of greater riches.

It is fitting he should go out from our screens on such a high note. Whether it's known in the future as the Freddie Flintoff series (or god forbid, the Shane Warne series - for this is also his last Ashes tour), it perhaps should also be known as the Richie Benaud retirement tour! Thanks, Richie and good luck for the future!

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