It`s getting depressing. The other day I mentioned the passing of Bill Ellerington and today comes the news that yet another hero has left us. Richie Benaud will rightly have a million obituaries to his impeccable career as a cricketer, a journalist, a broadcaster, commentator and as a man and so it will not be my place to add too much to the sadness we cricket lovers feel at his loss at the age of 84.
Except perhaps to say that, in so many way, Richie personified the sharp contrast, the divide, between cricket then and cricket now. He played his cricket at the very highest level - the first Australian to score over 2,000 runs and take over 200 wickets in Test matches - but he did so with dignity, with grace, elegance and a deep regard for the spirit of the game. Now these are qualities that are difficult to find in the modern game, which has become more concerned with results, personality and razzmatazz, perhaps encapsulated by the persona of players such as Kevin Pietersen, late of South Africa, Nottinghamshire, Hampshire, Surrey (twice), Royal Challengers Bangalore, Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils, St. Lucia Zouks and Melbourne Stars.
Pietersen is an undoubted talent, don`t get me wrong, but he has built a large part of his reputation on being a `character,` beginning, I suppose, with his bleach blonde streaks when England beat Australia in that memorable series in 2005 (was it really ten years ago?) and developing into the disruptive, self-obsessed, avaricious chancer we see today. Such clamour as there is for him to be returned to the England team is based purely on his batting ability whilst his contribution to team morale and togetherness are set aside in the headlong quest to win matches.
Despite the undoubted talent of players such as Pietersen, I doubt Richie Benaud would have given him a second thought in choosing a team to represent his country. Benaud was concerned, of course, with success on the field of play but not at any price. Maybe it`s another generational thing, quite probably my own, but with Richie Benaud leaving us, so too do many of those things that cricket once represented. Times change, of course....but not always for the better. Told you it was getting depressing.