The Kid From Coraki

Published: 2017
Pages: 253
Author: Benaud, Lou
Publisher: The Cricket Publishing Company
Rating: 4 stars

The name Benaud will be known to all. The name Lou Benaud will be known to only the real cricket lover. Lou is the father of John and Richie and as a cricketer he had the statistically rare achievement of claiming all 20 wickets in a match.

The Kid From Coraki, starts as an autobiography of Lou, and then morphs into the author’s philosophy on cricket coaching. The coaching treatise then closely follows the careers of his two sons.

‘Text boxes’ are interspersed throughout Lou’s writing and make up approximately half the book. These are mostly short extracts from contemporary newspapers and compliment the text admirably. Occasionally ‘notes’ from either Richie or John, are also included.  John’s notes, which are much more plentiful than those of his brother, are insightful and materially add to his father’s story.

Lou, who was born in 1904, passed away aged 89 years. After his death Richie began compiling this book based on his father’s copious notes. After Richie’s death in 2016, John took up the reins.

Lou Benaud proves to be an entertaining writer. His own childhood and brief ancestry holds interest and paints a story of a much harsher life than most of us will have experienced.

Times were particularly tough in the 1930s with the great depression. Lou becomes a school teacher and while grateful for employment his burgeoning cricket career suffers. In a similar fate as fellow school teacher, Bill O’Reilly, Lou is posted to the bush. The Education Department prove unsympathetic to his request for leave to play higher quality cricket and in the end he has to accept that his desire of playing at the highest level will remain an unfulfilled dream.

Lou, who almost died as a young man after a fall from a horse, decides to put his efforts into coaching his young son, Richie. He is careful not to interfere or force his own love of the game onto Richie but when the youngster shows a natural ability he ensures he knows the basics. Lou decides Richie should become a batting all rounder with leg spin as his bowling type. In the end Richie becomes a bowling all rounder and we follow his career through the eyes of Lou.

Next we follow the career of John; there is a 14 year age gap between the brothers. I found the story of John’s progression through the cricketing ranks to be the most enjoyable part of the book. Perhaps this was due to the fact that there is less known about John’s career, both cricket wise and professionally as compared to Richie’s.

John’s ‘notes’ also make the chapters on his career most enlightening and many will wonder why he is yet to write an autobiography of his own*. Apparently Lou had hoped to make John a batting/leg spinner too, but in the end John went down the road of specialist batsman.

The hopes for his younger son’s cricket career, and his anguish when things don’t quite work out, are lovingly conveyed by Lou. John, to his credit, and even though his own story features strongly, never attempts to take over the narrative and remains in the background.

Lou’s story is an enjoyable read made all the more entertaining by his famous sons. An added bonus are the high production values of the publisher** which features numerous interesting photographs. I heartedly recommend The Kid From Coraki, it won’t disappoint.

*John did publish Matters of Choice in 1997 which, as a book about the selection of Australian sides over his time in that particular job. By its nature there are some autobiographical aspects to the book, but it is not of that genre to any significant extent.

**As it is not mentioned on the publisher’s website we assume the edition of twenty numbered copies, specially bound in quarter leather and signed by John Benaud, Chappelli and Neil Marks, has sold out. Martin has been unusually reticent, immediately changing the subject when challenged as to whether he was one of the fortunate few to have acquired a copy.


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