‘Benaud has tremendous influence on people’

February 19th, 2009 - 9:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 19 (IANS) Former Australian captain and commentator Richie Benaud who announced next summer as his last behind the microphone, has been hailed as a legend by his colleagues and one who holds a strong influence on people.
The undisputed captain of an ever-expanding Channel Nine commentary team Wednesday made his first formal declaration since his days on the pitch.

When Kerry Packer took Australian cricket by the scruff of the neck and dragged it into the professional era, Benaud, who had been working for the BBC since 1960, was his choice to introduce the game, a hosting role he has retained ever since.

“We all revered Kerry Packer, and he revered Richie,” Nine chief executive David Gyngell was quoted as saying in Sydney Morning Herald. “The word ‘legend’ gets thrown around a bit but in television in the last 50 years there’s probably been half a dozen, and he’s one of them.

“He’s had a tremendous influence on the people around him, his work colleagues and the class of the network. Kerry Packer identified that in 1978. He knew what Richie was going to do, and he’s continued to do it.”

While the commentary box has become more crowded every season, with Bill Lawry, Ian Chappell, Tony Greig, Mark Taylor and Adam Gilchrist all having led their countries at cricket, Benaud pushed Gyngell to choose his replacement, going beyond the ranks of captains past to bring Mark Nicholas from England.

“He’s the captain of the team. You ask any of his fellow commentators,” Gyngell said. “He was the one who influenced me to work with Mark Nicholas a number of years ago, to work with him as an understudy, who he thought would be a great replacement. He really helped to make that happen.

“In my eyes, he is (heir apparent). We’ve been working towards that, and he has been doing it the last two years. He opens and closes the show, and that’s what Richie wanted.”

Famous for his wardrobe of beige jackets and a dry sense of humour, Gyngell said Benaud worried about his own performance, and was determined to leave at the top of his game. “But he sounded as good this season, better I reckon than he did 10 seasons ago.”

Fellow commentator Ian Healy said Benaud was clearly the benchmark. “We’ve been extremely lucky to grow up in the game watching him operate,” he said.

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