As you will have seen, the cricket world was rocked today by the sad news of the death of Richie Benaud. The Australian played 63 Tests, captaining the side on 28 occasions and losing none of his seven series at the helm. After an incredible career which saw him take 945 wickets in 259 first-class matches and amass 11,719, featuring 23 centuries, he went on to become a world-renowned commentator, whose coverage painted a beautiful picture of the game for millions around the planet.
Benaud’s standing in his home country was such that the Australian government has offered to hold a state funeral to honour his life and career.
Matthew Hoggard was fortunate enough to take 248 Test wickets, the exact same number as the late Australian cricketing and commentating legend. Having grown up listening to his commentary, Hoggy is naturally saddened by his passing.
He said, "The death of Richie Benaud is terrible news. He was first and foremost a fantastic player – you have to be to be the first man to reach 2000 Test runs and 200 wickets. He was also one of, if not, the best commentator and, while many people rightly call him ‘The Voice of Cricket’, he was very much the voice of my childhood – and I’m not the only one that sees him in light. The world of cricket is a poorer place for his absence, especially on TV and radio where he helped shape how so many of us saw the game. My thoughts are with Richie’s nearest and dearest at this sad time.”
With England kicking off a three Test series against the West Indies on Monday, Hoggy’s views remain as clear as ever.
“This is a must-win series for England. In comparison to the Ashes that follow, it’s relatively low profile and we’re expected to dominate the West Indians at Test level, so it’s the perfect time to start afresh and put the World Cup debacle behind us. We can see how far behind the rest we are in One Day cricket but this is an opportunity to start putting that right. It’s down to the players now to take responsibility and prove they’re worth their places in the side – they have to step up to the plate.”
“I hope that Alastair Cook’s break has done him some good and he can put together some good innings again. The form of Ian Bell and Gary Ballance has been really good and I’m looking to them to extend that and it’s highly likely Jimmy Anderson breaks Botham’s England Test wicket record. That will be a massive achievement for him.”
“It will be interesting to see who emerges as the favoured spinner in the coming months. While we may not employ spin too much in the Caribbean, it’ll be a weapon against the Aussies and with Moeen Ali due to return, either Adil Rashid or James Tredwell have the chance to stake a claim.”
There’s a lot happening behind the scenes of English cricket and Hoggard sees potential for much-needed flux.
“Colin Graves has come in as the new ECB Chairman recently and has already stirred the hornet’s nest over KP, plus Paul Downton’s now gone as Managing Director, sacrificed at the altar of World Cup failure. I think wholesale change is required and that raises a number of questions. Is Peter Moores in danger? Will we see Graves lead a wider restructuring of English cricket? Will we see the introduction of an IPL equivalent league in this country? I think that would do us the world of good in terms of the One Day game, if I’m honest, but there are only so many days in the year and we already play a shed load of cricket – we need a new balance and sacrifices will have to be made. Like Bob Dylan sang – the times they are a-changing!”