All-conquering Test and one-day captain Michael Clarke credits the late and great Richie Benaud for creating the winning culture that has led to Australia becoming the most dominant force in world cricket.
Under Steve Waugh’s iron-willed leadership, Australia emerged from the West Indies’ intimidating shadow to win a world-record 16 successive Tests between 1999 and 2001.
Incredibly – or marvellously, Richie might say – the Ricky Ponting-skippered Australians matched that feat with another 16 straight Test triumphs from 2005-08.
Clarke was an integral member of Ponting’s twice-in-a-generation side before taking over and leading Australia out of the relative doldrums in 2013 and back to the top of the Test rankings with a memorable 5-0 Ashes whitewash of England – and then of course to one-day World Cup glory just a fortnight ago.
Clarke says it was Benaud the cricketer and captain half a century ago – not the commentator he is now remembered as by most Australians – who set the standards.
A shrewd and instinctive tactician, Benaud never lost a Test series while skipper after leading Australia to a 4-0 Ashes rout of England on his captaincy debut in 1958-59.
The series win returned the urn to Australia for the first time in a decade and Benaud the captain twice defended our bragging rights agains the old enemy.
“He loved winning,” Clarke said after Benaud’s death on Friday, aged 84.
“He helped the Australian team have the attitude where they wanted to win. He played the game the right way.”
“He saw the game that not many people are gifted enough to see the game.
“He was great player and a great captain, a wonderful leader of men”.
A great player indeed.
Benaud was a crafty legspinner and aggressive lower-order batsman who once belted a Test ton inside the time of a football match, Penrith-born Benaud played 63 Test matches after debuting against the West Indies in 1952.
He was the first Test cricketer to take 200 wickets and score 2000 runs, but statistics don’t truly convey the giant in the game he was at the time.
Benaud’s legspin bowling yielded a record 248 wickets – and five in an innings on 16 occasions – at average of 27.03.
His tally remained unsurpassed in cricket until Dennis Lillee eclipsed him almost 20 years later.
As a more-than-handy batsman, Benaud struck three Test centuries, including a highest score of 122 against South Africa at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, and finished his career with 2201 runs at average of 24.45.
Shoulder trouble forced him to retire at 33.