It’s just not cricket

Richie Benaud was my hero. Hour upon hour was spent modelling my bowling style on his. I wanted to bowl leg spin just like him. And before long I was proud of the fact that I could let a good leggy rip justifying my opinion of myself that greatness was just around the corner. Many a time I rattled the stumps or beat the bat of hapless family members and friends in the backyard as I mesmerised them with my spin. I was going to be as good as Richie Benaud. My dream was to follow in his footsteps and play Test Cricket for Australia. Many dreams saw me wrecking the Poms at Lords, taking “five for” a couple of times on a turning track then smacking a delightful drive off the front foot through through the covers to score the winning runs. The crowd would cheer the conquering hero! It was all there waiting for me.

I loved listening to the cricket on the radio at night during an Ashes tours of England during the late 50’s and early 60’s. Dad would unscrew the globe from the light on the ceiling in the sleepout and plug the wireless in. For some reason the wireless had a plug that could only be plugged into a light socket. It was a treat to be allowed the radio to myself and to be up well past my bedtime; sometimes dad would lie with me on the bed and we listened to the commentary together. A real bonding time for father and son.

That magical velvet voice of John Arlott with his superb turn of phrase and descriptions and use of all those wonderfully typical English words and names entranced me as I laid in my bed listening to the broadcast. Dad at times tried to explain to me, in his way, the meaning of some of the enthralling commentary wafting out from the radio but it didn’t matter if dad mucked it up; it was the sound of Arlott’s voice that fascinated me . We loved our cricket.

During this time Dad had become friendly with John Beckwith the former Melbourne captain and premiership player when he moved to Colac to coach the local footy team. So when dad told me we were going to the cricket at the MCG with Becky to watch Victoria and NSW play I couldn’t contain myself, I was over the moon. At last I was going to see my hero, Richie Benaud, in the flesh, and with a little bit of luck I was going to meet him.

Becky had organised with the administration of the MCC for me to be at the players gate as they came off the ground at the end of the day. I was a nervous wreck all day wondering what I would say to Benaud. In the end I decided the best thing to do would be to just ask him for his autograph.
So there I was, standing at the players gate, autograph book and pen in hand in awe as state and test cricketers passed me by. I had died and gone to heaven! And then at last, there he was , the great man,Richie Benaud approaching me. He looked enormous to a small boy. My hero, at last.

“Can I have your autograph please?” I asked in a nervous and wavering but polite voice as I proffered my book towards him.

Then, without a word, my world crashed down, there was not even an acknowledgement from him, just an arm firmly moving me aside so he did not have to change his stride to pass through the gate.
I was completely and utterly devastated. My hero had ignored me. Me, his biggest fan. Didn’t he know or appreciate what this must mean to a young boy. My hero had crushed me.
And then I cried.

Thank goodness for dad. He made everything better for me. On the way home he bought me my first ever hamburger, one with real meat, grilled onion, beetroot, tomato, lettuce with sauce served on a toasted roll. I still remember the taste vividly. And to top it all off, a strawberry milkshake with extra malt eventually offered me some consolation for my devastation.

Richie Benaud?
Well, Bobby Simpson soon replaced him in the hero stakes.
And, to this day, whenever I see Richie Benaud I’m reminded not of a hero but of my dad, a hamburger and a milkshake.

About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan and drinking a robust cab sav.

Comments

  1. “And, to this day, whenever I see Richie Benaud I’m reminded not of a hero but of my dad, a hamburger and a milkshake.” Then that’s worked out beautifully, Colin

  2. Colin Ritchie says:

    Oops, a couple of typos. Sorry about that.

  3. Share similar memories of ancient Ashes tests and the wonderful BBC commentaries. To this day I enjoy radio commentary more than TV for all bar Eagles away games and finals. For the rest TV is just mindless pap and spacefiller that I can better fill with the garden or a book, and the radio on in the background.
    The few occasions I sought out boyhood heroes like Les Favell or Ian Chappell for autogpraphs they were very gracious. Had to pick your time – in the field all day on a baking Adelaide day was not the time or place.
    Thanks for the memories Colin.

  4. Yeah, Peter B sounds right about picking your time, Adam, so I hope you can rekindle your adoration of Ritchie. Lovely story Adam.

  5. Forgive me for calling you Adam, Colin (we have a Adam Ritchie who contributes to this site.)

  6. Peter Schumacher says:

    I too enjoyed this piece particularly as it relates to the English commentators.

    I have a happy memory of being in the John Cresswell stand at the Adelaide Oval in the 58/59 Ashes series. The commentary box was at the top left of this stand as you walked into it. It seems incredible now but on more than one occasion my sister and I would go to the area to listen to and see in person Johnny Moyes and others of the commentary team as they went about their work. The great Alec Bedser was present as a “expert” commentator as well He was a tall handsome man and my sister nearly swooned I think when he very graciously signed his autograph in her autograph book. Certainly a far cry from the experience that Col had.

    Whilst thinking about that I do remember Benaud and May each looking the part when they lad their teams onto the beautiful beautiful Adelaide Oval. Perhaps I didn’t realise it then and in truth the game was achingly slow at times, but in some ways going to the fourth Test in Adelaide in January 59 was the highlight of my sporting memories.

  7. What a crushing blow, I can only imagine the disappointment, Colin. You’ll be pleased to know that 40ish years later Richie had improved in his autographing protocol, but I must share what I think is an amusing tale of autograph hunting that involved Mr 222 (it probably fits in the “you had to be there” type, but I’ll try to do it justice).

    I was at the inaugural Allan Border Medal dinner and after several Crownies for dutch courage, decided to do some selective autograph hunting. I’d secured the prized scribbles of DK Lillee, Bacchus Marsh, Boony, Little Johnnie Howard, Eddie CFC McGuire, Steve Waugh and then I spotted Richie. He was indulging someone in a brief conversation and another punter and I approached at the same time. The other guy seemed to be on a mission, so I decided to allow him to go first as I observed. This guy had about 30 autographs crammed onto one side of his “program” and the other side had one solitary autograph. So when he handed it to Richie and asked him to sign the “busy side” Richie had a quizzical look, a raised eyebrow and turned it over to the other side. Richie courtiously enquired as to whether he could sign the side with only one signature and the punter reacted in a gruff manner and turned it back over and asked him to sign in a small remaining gap. Richie then politely enquired why as to why he wouldn’t want him to sign on the almost blank side, and the punter blurted out something like “Mark Waugh signed that side and he’s a legend and I don’t want to spoil it”. With that, Richie handed back his program, handed back his pen and declined with a refined “no thank you”. It was priceless!

    I then moved in for my turn and cheekily said that he could sign it anywhere he wanted and he did so with flourish and a look that spoke a thousand words. Shit, I laughed!!!

    On the subjet of meeting heroes, I’ve had the great fortune of meeting my two childhood/adolesence/adulthood heroes – Peters McKenna and Daicos. Thankfully my experiences have been the complete opposite of your Richie experience, Colin. Both are humble, engaging and brilliant blokes. After idolising them on the footy field for their feats (and their feet), meeting them was a cherished experience and was great to see two of the most popular sporting figures in VFL/AFL history had maintained a down to earth ego.

    Long live heroes!

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