Tributes have poured in following the death of former Australia captain and broadcaster Richie Benaud, aged 84.
International Cricket Council chief executive Dave Richardson and England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke, as well as Prime Minister David Cameron, saluted a man as well known for his commentary as his cricket.
Benaud was a trailblazing all-rounder who took 248 wickets and scored 2,201 runs in 63 Tests while never losing a series in charge of his country.
He then moved into a career in the media in 1956 which saw him become the voice of the game in both the UK and his homeland.
Clarke said: “Cricket has lost perhaps its greatest advocate and a true giant of the modern game.
“Richie was a marvellously talented cricketer who gave much to the Australian team as a player and a leader.
“But he will always, above all, be remembered as one of cricket’s most influential and authoritative voices. 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.”
Richardson added: “Today is a very sad day for cricket as it mourns the passing of one of its most beloved sons. On behalf of the ICC, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Richie Benaud as well as everyone connected with Australia cricket.
“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, through his cricket intellect, knowledge and articulate presentation, [he] became the voice of cricket.”
A post on Cameron’s official Twitter account read: “I grew up listening to Richie Benaud’s wonderful cricket commentary. Like all fans of the sport, I will miss him very much.”
Current Australia Test captain Michael Clarke believes Benaud’s spirit as well as his prowess with bat, ball and microphone made him one of the most popular figures in the game.
“I think [for] everybody involved in cricket, Richie is known for a lot more than bowling a few leg-spinners and hitting a few cover drives,” he told Channel Nine in Australia.
“He was a great player and a great captain, a wonderful leader of men and I think he continued that off the field. He set a great example, he’s a gentleman, he played the game in the right spirit.
“I think all of us look up to Richie so it’s a really sad day.”
Benaud took a break from commentary in 2013 after being involved in a car accident and, just over a year later, his comeback was put on ice as he began to receive treatment for skin cancer. He never did return to the microphone full-time but his legacy was secured and Australia coach Darren Lehmann hailed him as “one of the game’s greats”.
“The fact Australia never lost a series under his captaincy says so much and those standards were just as high when he turned his attention to calling the game,” said Lehmann.
“We loved listening to him commentate when the team was together in the dressing room. When he was on air, we always had the TV volume turned up because his comments were so insightful.”
Benaud, at one point, was Australia’s leading wicket-taker with his leg-spin before his record was surpassed by Dennis Lillee and eventually Shane Warne.
One of Benaud’s most famous commentaries was on the “ball of the century” – Warne’s first delivery in Ashes cricket which dismissed Mike Gatting – and the 45-year-old fellow leg-spinner paid an emotional tribute to his mentor on Instagram.
“As a cricketer, commentator and as a person, you were the best there’s ever been and to top it off, an absolute gentleman…” Warne wrote. “For me it was an honour and a privilege to call you a close friend and mentor, we had so many wonderful times together, talking cricket and, in particular, our love and passion for leg-spin bowling.
“Richie, you were loved by everyone, not just the cricket family, you were the godfather of cricket and you will be missed by all… RIP my friend.”
England coach Peter Moores said: “Richie sums up all that is great about our sport. He was a true gentlemen with a real insight into the game and his enthusiasm for the sport made you want to get off the sofa and play. He will be sorely missed.”
India great Sachin Tendulkar described Benaud as a “wonderful personality who was always warm and encouraging [and] had great insights on the game”.
Benaud’s fellow broadcasters hailed Benaud’s influence, led by Test Match Special’s Jonathan Agnew, who wrote on bbc.co.uk: “He was quite simply peerless. Nobody else had his authority, popularity and skill.
“I had the privilege of working with him for BBC TV at the 1999 World Cup, when he was my rock. Captain of his country, one of the finest all-rounders of his era and a broadcaster beyond compare for five decades… there will never be another Richie Benaud. He was a one-off.”