The world has been paying tribute to Richie Benaud, the former Australia captain and iconic cricket commentator, who has died aged 84.
A pioneering leg-spin bowler, Benaud played in 63 Tests, 28 as captain, before retiring in 1964 to pursue a career in journalism and broadcasting.
His final commentary in England was at the 2005 Ashes series but he continued to work in Australia until 2013.
In November, Benaud revealed he was being treated for skin cancer.
West Indies batting legend Sir Everton Weekes told Barbados TODAY he had lunch with Benaud a few months ago and as usual he was in a very cheerful mood. Sir Everton described Benaud as a great student of the game and a leading all-rounder of his time. He desrcibed him not only as an excellent leg-spinner, batsman and captain, but added he later became one of the game’s most astute commentators and writers. The West Indian icon said Benaud was above all a gentleman.
In England Marylebone Cricket Club said they had lowered the flag on the North Clock Tower at Lord’s as a mark of respect for a figure “universally liked and respected across the world of cricket”.
The Australian government has offered to hold a state funeral for Benaud, who enjoyed a long association with the BBC following his first radio appearance for the corporation in 1960.
“Richie was not just a great cricket commentator, he was one of the finest sports commentators of his generation,” said Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport.
“He was an integral part of the BBC team for decades and will be sorely missed by everyone who had the pleasure of working with him.”
Benaud was revered for an outstanding playing career in which he took 945 wickets in 259 first-class matches and made 11,719 first-class runs, scoring 23 centuries at an average of 36.50.
Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards: “Richie stood at the top of the game throughout his rich life, first as a record-breaking leg-spinner and captain, and then as cricket’s most famous broadcaster who became the iconic voice of our summer.”
Australia prime minister Tony Abbott: “A sad day for Australia. We have lost a cricketing champion and Australian icon. What an innings. RIP Richie Benaud.”
Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara: “So sad to hear about the passing of Richie Benaud. The great voice of cricket is no more. He defined an era with conviction and sincerity.”
Australia coach Darren Lehmann: “Our thoughts are with the Benaud family at this time, RIP one of the game’s all-time greats. He will be missed by the whole cricketing world.”
Benaud was the first man to achieve 2,000 runs and 200 wickets at Test level, and was a highly regarded tactician. He never lost a Test series as Australia captain, winning five and drawing two.
England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke: “Cricket has lost perhaps its greatest advocate and someone who was a true giant of the modern game.”
Australia’s record wicket-taker Shane Warne: “Dear Richie, you were a legend on all levels and rightly so too. As a cricketer, commentator and as a person, you were the best there’s ever been and to top it off, an absolute gentleman. For me it was an honour and a privilege to call you a close friend and mentor.”
Former England captain Geoffrey Boycott: “Farewell Richie Benaud. Wonderful cricketer, great captain, a master craftsman commentator and top man. Will always be remembered and admired.”
Former India captain Anil Kumble: “His values cut across all generations and was the best example in cricket to everyone associated with it. Always had a kind word for every cricketer. Above all a great human being. Had a special place for every leg spinner. Very sad day for cricket.”
International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson: “Richie was a true legend, charismatic but always the perfect sportsman and gentleman.”
ABC’s chief cricket commentator Jim Maxwell: “He was one of the driving forces behind the enthusiasm for cricket in this country over the last 30 or 40 years.
“He has been an amazing influence for all those people who have followed the game and loved it for a long while because he always spoke with authority, a gentle authority, and with an understated humour.”
BBC Sport cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “He was the face of my childhood and for millions of others. He was cricket on the TV in England. He was our Richie – and that is the ultimate compliment for an Australian.”