Over the years, cricket lovers have been fortunate to see some sizzling innings from Sachin Tendulkar.
They have also benefited from some high-quality commentary. One celebrated commentator who has seen quite a bit of the Indian batting great in England and Australia is Richie Benaud.
How one wishes that Benaud be in the commentary box during Tendulkar’s 200th Test at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai next month, simply because he’s so brilliant and would do full justice to the historic moment, something which no cricketer has achieved before. But Benaud will be busy gearing up for the first Ashes Test at the Gabba in Brisbane.
For long now, Benaud has been the voice of cricket and has watched Tendulkar since 1990. He was on-air when the then 17-year-old scored his first of 100 international centuries. In Benaud’s words on BBC, it was, “An innings of temperament, skill and delightful strokeplay.”
In the Australian summer of 1991-92, Benaud watched two memorable Test hundreds from Tendulkar’s power blade, one at Sydney and the other at Perth. He picked Sydney as the superior knock although the Perth hundred was scored in sheer adversity. “… at Sydney, it was just something else and I have marvelled at it ever since,” he said.
Tendulkar’s hundred on a burning deck against England at Birmingham in June 1996 impressed the Australian legend big-time. On an up-and- down Edgbaston pitch, only Tendulkar could come up with a sizeable second innings contribution. When the India’s vice-captain lofted Min Patel for a six to reach his hundred, Benaud told his viewers: “You won’t see a better innings than that this year. You may not see one next year either. Wonderful to watch and a privilege to be here!”
Benaud rates Tendulkar as the next best player he has seen after Don Bradman, who he very nearly played against in first-class cricket. One day, he expressed his misfortune to Keith Miller, another Australian cricket legend and Miller said, “Son, everyone has a lucky break in life. That was yours.” The straight-talking Miller had no doubt that Bradman would have murdered Benaud’s leg-spin.
While Benaud thinks Tendulkar is the best after Bradman, he believes Lara and Greg Chappell are not far behind the little Indian.
Tendulkar thrilled Benaud with his two innings in Sharjah 1998. He wrote in his last book, Over But Not Out that Tendulkar’s two hundreds against Australia were two of the greatest innings he saw in limited overs cricket. Sharjah also afforded the opportunity to witness a desert sandstorm for the first time.
He wrote: “I thought I had seen just about everything in cricket, but it is always unwise to think along those lines. I have seen snow on the ground at Buxton, hail covering the whole of Lord’s like a lovely cold, white blanket, sea-frets at Scarborough, ferocious rain and hail in Brisbane with the covers washed down to the fence at the Stanley Street End.”
The leg-spinning stalwart also appreciated Tendulkar’s similar brand of tweak that was on display in Sharjah.
In many ways, Benaud is like Tendulkar in terms of enduring careers. He celebrated his 83rd birthday on October 9 and is set for another Australian season. “Richie will do cricket for as long as he wants to do cricket. We’ll never be telling Richie what he can and can’t do and I’m always interested in hearing what he has to say,” Channel Nine’s chief executive David Gyngell was quoted as saying a few months ago.
If you reckon, Benaud may have experienced some boring days of cricket. He was once asked exactly that. Over to Ian Chappell to tell us what happened next: “Richie looked at the guy and said, “I’ve never had a boring day’s cricket in my life.”
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor