For more than half a century, Richie Benaud (1930–2015) graced the game of cricket around the world. A dashing batsman and fierce leg-spinner, Benaud was the first player to score 2,000 runs and take 200 wickets in Test cricket. As Australian captain, he never lost a series and championed an attractive, attacking brand of cricket. As a television commentator for Channel Nine in Australia and Channel Four in England, Benaud became the gold standard for insight, economy, and dry wit. Throughout a long career, he was stylish, charming, and profoundly influential.
In Benaud: An appreciation, Brian Matthews – an award-winning writer and literary scholar – eschews conventional biography and embarks on a trickier endeavour: a celebration. The book is composed of a series of cameos – key moments in Benaud’s career – intermingled with the author’s personal reflections and with extensive quotations from cricketers and journalists. The result is a pleasant, if idiosyncratic, book that is perhaps best enjoyed on a summer afternoon, or a few chapters at a time during lunch or tea breaks.
One of the highlights of the book is Matthews’s account of the Tied Test between Australia and the West Indies in 1960. In the lead-up to this series, Test cricket was in trouble. Attendances had dwindled as a result of stodgy batting, slow over rates, and negative captaincy.