Friday, September 02, 2005

Signing off

As Bob Piper comments, one of the great cricketing voices will lay down his microphone for the last time after the Oval Test next week.

Richie Benaud, a top-notch Australian spin bowler and even better commentator, takes his leave to enjoy a well-earned retirement from the game. He's one of the best TV commentators, as he knows when to talk and when to shut up and let the pictures tell the story - so that when he speaks, you know that it is something that you want to hear. A man from a distant era, he is the master of understatement and occasionally sharp wit. With his encyclopaedic understanding of the game, he can spot the little signals that tell if a batsman is in form or if a bowler has a niggling injury. Two years ago, Wisden asked the question as to who had seen the most Test matches and they calculated that he had seen 486 - almost a third of all Test matches ever played.

He's going to be missed by the millions of British cricket fans, but I rather suspect that his televisual successor is Mike Atherton, who has flair and intelligence when he comments on the game. The baton has been handed over, but we won't see 'em until 2009 at the earliest, because of the ECB's insane decision to hand the broadcast rights to Sky. 8.4 million people watched the closing moments of the Trent Bridge Test - half of the viewing audience at the time. Next weekend will see even more people tune in to catch the last overs of this match, many of them new to the game and for many of them, this will be their last exposure to the game for four years.

So, goodbye and good luck to Richie. You've chosen the right moment. Two years ago, he cited the 1981 Headingley Test match as his favourite commentary-box match, but this current series has 'shaded that.' Ain't it just, Richie, ain't it just.

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