Richie’s kindness to a young sportswriter

Richie Benaud’s greatness as a player and commentator is known throughout the cricketing world.

Less known, perhaps, is his personal kindness.

In 1977 I was covering the Ashes series in England for Australia’s national news agency AAP.

One windy Saturday in May, the Australians were playing Gloucestershire in a county match in Bristol.

It also happened to be the day of the FA Cup Final between the two giants of the English game, Liverpool and Manchester United.

Most of the Australian cricket writers on the tour had managed to get themselves tickets to Wembley, leaving the AAP correspondent with the lonely task of reporting an inconsequential day’s cricket to the folks back home.

As it happened, the Australian team – replete with heavyweights like Greg Chappell, Doug Walters and Rod Marsh – were skittled in less than 50 overs by a county bowler with the unforgettable name of Brian Brain, who was unplayable in the wind and took 7-51.

As it also happened, I had food poisoning.

The state of my health was not improved by the fact the press box, a demountable structure stuck on top of a shed, was rocking to and fro in the wind.

Richie, on duty for the BBC and writing for a British Sunday newspaper, popped his head into the room to find me throwing up into a rubbish bin.

“Ah, you’re the AAP man, aren’t you,” he said in those familiar clipped tones.

“Anything I can do to help?”

I demurred but Mr Benaud, as I called him, insisted.

And so he sat down at my typewriter (yes, typewriter) to file score updates to AAP’s office in London and to hammer out a match report.

There was no byline.

But it is one of my proudest moments in journalism.

And the day I learned that the legend was a truly great man.

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