Benaud in WisdenArchie Mac |
Author: Smyth, Rob (Editor)
Rating: 4 stars
It was inevitable in the wake of the passing of the legendary cricket figure Richie Benaud that there would be a number of celebratory publications released. Already there have been four and with most fans expected to purchase only one the question becomes which one?
That is where the trust and excellence of Wisden since 1864 comes to the fore. Wisden is a byword for quality and their publication on Benaud is another in the tradition. Benaud in Wisden commences with a fine forward by Benaud’s contemporary and good friend Alan Davidson which sets the scene for a quality read.
The book is set out in themes rather than chronological order and features articles from Wisden, Wisden Monthly, Wisden Asia and even the short lived Wisden Australia. The selections by editor Rob Smyth have been judiciously chosen to reflect Benaud’s amazing contribution to the game of cricket.
The pieces selected by Smyth also include some lighter moments. Such as Benaud’s favourite Tests, his best ever XI and even a poll on commentators circa 2005; Benaud was rated the best although one respondent suggested that Benaud should retire. Surely a Philistine!
Those not familiar with Benaud the cricketer will also learn about his stellar playing career. Some of the matches in which he was involved include two of the greatest in Test history. The tied Test against the West Indies and his personal best bowling performance in 1964 when he bowled Australia to an Ashes winning victory, despite an injured shoulder. It was the shoulder injury that caused his retirement which fast tracked Benaud into fulltime journalism and saw him in demand by a number of publications including Wisden.
It was surprising just how regularly Benaud contributed to the Almanack, from summaries of Wisden Players of the year, to dedications, to obituaries and opinion pieces. As far back as the 1950s Benaud contributed thought provoking and forward thinking articles. And just when you thought his esteem couldn’t rise any higher in the minds and hearts of cricket supporters the following may just achieve it. Matthew Engel, Wisden editor, once asked Benaud what fee he required to write a tribute on Benaud’s mentor and hero Keith Miller. Benaud refused the fee “this was an obligation that transcended money”.
Apart from Miller, Benaud wrote perceptively on other legends including Shane Warne and Don Bradman. The latter was a quality eulogy reproduced in Wisden Australia and as such would be unfamiliar to even the hardened Wisden reader. In it he recounts a delightful anecdote against himself involving both Miller and Bradman, which is worth the admission price alone.
Despite his quality writing Benaud, though, will be best remembered for his TV commentary and Benaud in Wisden, just like the man, is at its best when televised cricket coverage is involved. How Benaud started, the skills that he had, even some of his advice to up and coming commentators is all included. The reverence that Benaud was held in from all those involved in commentating on the game shines through and adds to his gravitas as the greatest cricket caller ever.
There will be many more Benaud inspired books released in the coming months, however few will reach the heights of Benaud in Wisden and none will better it. Editor Rob Smyth, deserves a lot of the credit for this quality read, his choices of which pieces to include makes this one of the best of all the Wisden anthologies; highly recommended.