A 10 Year Old’s Trip to The Commentary Box

It’s the 2nd January, 1984. Mum and I hit the road to the SCG to witness the final test of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh. I’m sure mum only wanted to perve on Imran Khan.

The rain has been constant since New Years and when we get to the ground there’s not many people there. We have plenty of spare seats in the MA Noble stand to choose from.

Peter Leroy, the SCG Curator used to curate the ground at Penrith, Howell Oval, and is known to my family. We see him by the ramp to the field with his tractor. No chance of getting on today he said.

Local umpire Dick French is standing in this Test and we bump into him behind the Members. Best come back tomorrow is his advice.

A walk to the top deck of the Noble Stand and mum is recognised by the Channel 9 statistician Irving Rosenwater, he says come back tomorrow and I’ll give you a tour of the commentary box. Magic news for a 10 year old boy.

In those days only the final session of play was broadcast into the host city, not the full day’s play as it is now. Word filters through big Kerry wants to watch some cricket this afternoon. The covers are lifted and suddenly the Channel 9 helicopter begins its infamous blow-dry of the SCG pitch. At stumps Pakistan are 1 for 90.

We return, along with 30,000 others for day 2 and the great DK has ripped through the tourists taking 3 wickets. At tea time mum and I are greeted by Irving at the media centre and are escorted into the Channel 9 section.

Play has just resumed and the red light to a small room turns off, and suddenly there I am, in the “host” set with the one and only Richie Benaud. I am awestruck. The brilliant view over the SCG, the backdrop familiar to all viewers watching at home and the presence of the man in the beige jacket.

He asks me if I play the game, “Yes sir, I do. I play for Emu Plains and Nepean Representative side.”

Richie asks “Do you prefer batting or bowling?” And I excitedly tell him I’m a left arm spin bowler.

He lifts his head higher and says to me as he shakes my hand “You’ve chosen a wonderful art in spin bowling, it’s the best part of the game. Who will you play your senior cricket with?”

I say “The Club your brother John used to play for.”

“Oh Cumberland” he said.

A little too quickly I said “No. Penrith.”

The great DK has taken another wicket and it’s time to go to the much larger commentary box.

It’s a split level room. On the lower front half two women are creating the on screen data graphics, next to them is Irving and to his right Tony Greig and Ian Chappell are on air.

I’m seated on the higher back half where producers and other people are sitting, including Bill Lawry.

Excited 10 year olds don’t have a very soft whispering voice so when I turned to my mum and said “Gee mum, I’d heard stories about how big that nose is, but that’s massive.”

Suddenly all the noise in the room stops. Tony and Ian have put their microphones down as they try to muffle their laughter. Richie retreats into his host studio. Everyone else in the room is struggling to keep it together.

I glance across and there’s Bill feeling the bridge of his mighty proboscis.

31 years later, it still seems like only yesterday I was living a boyhood dream.

In later years I played 5th grade for Penrith when John Benaud decided to “have a game.” A brilliant tactician, you learnt how much the Benaud family instinctively knew how to play cricket better than anyone else.

Their father Lou once took 19 wickets for St Marys in a local Nepean Association game. When it became apparent his team mates were bowling wide of the stumps in the hope of letting Lou grab all 20, he quickly pulled them into line and said “it only happens on merit.” He finished with 19.

Today, the world lost Richie. Over six decades he lived an endless summer, following the sun for Nine, BBC and channel 4.

A true leader of men, with a charm, wit and grace rarely found in the one person.

A bit of my boyhood went with him.

About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.


  1. Great story Wayne.
    I did admire Richie.
    The channel nine commentary team in the eighties and early nineties was great.
    Now it is good with a bit of parody.
    A bit like society…
    For the past 15 years I’ve watched cricket and football with the sound turned down and the ABC turned up.
    It wasn’t because of Richie’s commentary.

  2. Wayne
    I know what a tragic fan of cricket you are, great article. Sad day for cricket, and sadder that this happened on your birthday too!

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