Tributes for cricket legend Benaud

Richie Benaud. AFP file photo

The world has been paying tribute to Richie Benaud, the former Australia captain and iconic cricket commentator, who has died aged 84.

A pioneering leg-spin bowler, Benaud played in 63 Tests, 28 as captain, before retiring in 1964 to pursue a career in journalism and broadcasting.

His final commentary in England was at the 2005 Ashes series but he continued to work in Australia until 2013.

In November, Benaud revealed he was being treated for skin cancer.

The Australian government has offered to hold a state funeral for Benaud, who enjoyed a long association with the BBC following his first radio appearance for the corporation in 1960.

"Richie was not just a great cricket commentator, he was one of the finest sports commentators of his generation," said Barbara Slater, Director of BBC Sport.

"He was an integral part of the BBC team for decades and will be sorely missed by everyone who had the pleasure of working with him."

'The iconic voice of summer'

Benaud was revered for an outstanding playing career in which he took 945 wickets in 259 first-class matches and made 11,719 first-class runs, scoring 23 centuries at an average of 36.50.

Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards: "Richie stood at the top of the game throughout his rich life, first as a record-breaking leg-spinner and captain, and then as cricket's most famous broadcaster who became the iconic voice of our summer."

Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott:  "A sad day for Australia. We have lost a cricketing champion and Australian icon. What an innings. RIP Richie Benaud."

Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara:  "So sad to hear about the passing of Richie Benaud. The great voice of cricket is no more. He defined an era with conviction and sincerity."

Australia coach Darren Lehmann:  "Our thoughts are with the Benaud family at this time, RIP one of the game's all-time greats. He will be missed by the whole cricketing world."

'A true giant of the modern game'

Benaud was the first man to achieve 2,000 runs and 200 wickets at Test level, and was a highly regarded tactician. He never lost a Test series as Australia captain, winning five and drawing two.

England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke: "Cricket has lost perhaps its greatest advocate and someone who was a true giant of the modern game. Richie was a marvellously talented cricketer who in the early part of his career gave much to the Australian team as a player and a leader.

"Few could match the breadth of knowledge and insight he brought to the commentary box, and all leavened by his marvellous dry wit which millions came to know and love both in this country and across the world."

Australia's record wicket-taker Shane Warne:  "Dear Richie, you were a legend on all levels and rightly so too. As a cricketer, commentator and as a person, you were the best there's ever been and to top it off, an absolute gentleman. For me it was an honour and a privilege to call you a close friend and mentor."

Australia batsman Steve Smith:  "Sad to wake up and hear of the loss of Richie Benaud. True gentleman and the voice of cricket. Will always be remembered. RIP Richie."

'An absolute gentleman, a master craftsman'

Following his impressive playing career, Benaud became even better known as a prolific author, columnist and commentator on cricket.

After the 1956 Ashes tour in England, he completed a BBC training course while still a player, marking the beginning of a 40-year association with the corporation.

Former England captain Geoffrey Boycott:  "Farewell Richie Benaud. Wonderful cricketer, great captain, a master craftsman commentator and top man. Will always be remembered and admired."

Former India captain Anil Kumble:  "His values cut across all generations and was the best example in cricket to everyone associated with it. Always had a kind word for every cricketer. Above all a great human being. Had a special place for every leg spinner. Very sad day for cricket."

England coach Peter Moores: "Richie sums up all that is great about our sport. He was a true gentlemen."

Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan:  "Saddened by the death of Richie Benaud, one of the greatest cricketing brains."

'Peerless, well-loved, a legend and an icon'

With his mellifluous, light delivery, enthusiastically imitated by comedians and cricket fans alike, Benaud also became the lead commentator on Australian television's Channel Nine from 1977.

After his retirement he often spoke of a return to commentary but, to the great sadness of his legions of admirers, it did not materialise.

Former Australia batsman Justin Langer told BBC Radio 5 live: "As a player alone he left a great legacy but as a commentator his gestures and his language were peerless. "Wise men often don't inundate you with words but when they speak you listen to everything they say.

"That's why he was so wonderful to listen to, and why he was so well loved. He dies a legend and an icon."

Australia captain Michael Clarke told Channel Nine in Australia: "He was a great player and a great captain, a wonderful leader of men and I think he's continued that off the field. He played the game in the right spirit and all of us look up to Richie so it's a really sad day."

International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson said:  "Richie was a true legend, charismatic but always the perfect sportsman and gentleman.

"During his playing days, he was an outstanding all-rounder and inspirational captain. Following retirement, he turned journalist and broadcaster, and through his cricket intellect, knowledge and articulate presentation, became the voice of cricket."

'A gentle authority, an understated humour'

Benaud, who was appointed OBE in 1961 for services to cricket, leaves a wife of 48 years, Daphne, and two children from his first marriage.

ABC's chief cricket commentator Jim Maxwell: "He was one of the driving forces behind the enthusiasm for cricket in this country over the last 30 or 40 years.

"He has been an amazing influence for all those people who have followed the game and loved it for a long while because he always spoke with authority, a gentle authority, and with an understated humour."

BBC Sport cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: "He was the face of my childhood and for millions of others. He was cricket on the TV in England. He was our Richie - and that is the ultimate compliment for an Australian."

Former England spinner Graeme Swann:  "One of the greatest spin bowlers and undoubtedly the greatest commentator the cricket world has known has left us. RIP Richie Benaud."

Board of Control for Cricket in India:  "The world of cricket has not just lost a voice but a true legend in every sense. RIP Richie Benaud, you will be missed."

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe:  "RIP Richie Benaud. My deep gratitude for all you gave to the sport of cricket as a player and as a broadcaster. Sad, sad day."

Australia's double Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Anna Meares:  "Rest In Peace Richie Benaud. What a marvellous innings you had."



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