Richie Benaud’s hair cannot go unremarked upon

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One thing we have not at any point touched upon in our podcasts about the 1981 Ashes has been Richie Benaud’s hair. And that’s a shame. Richie Benaud’s hair in 1981 is worthy of comment.

If you’re old enough, Richie Benaud’s “morning everyone” is a thing that will instantly take you to a place where everything is okay and where the day ahead is almost certainly set to be a good one. It is not so much comforting in itself, as a shortcut to a psychological place where comfort is not necessary.

In England and Australia, this is perhaps the most meaningful generational schism in cricket: people who grew up with Richie and people who didn’t.

Richie presented the 1981 Ashes because of course he did. He did so in a laid-back, matter-of-fact manner that will be familiar to anyone who remembers him.

“England made 189 and I thought they could have got 30 or 40 more,” he’ll say – or something to that effect. He’s not criticising, exactly. It’s just his assessment.

Similarly, when Australia pick a team without a spinner, he isn’t outraged; he just says he thinks it’s the wrong decision and his outrage has to be inferred.

But no matter what has happened, Richie is excited about the day ahead. And no matter what he says, he says it with that hairstyle.

Because wow, what a hairstyle. It’s almost aquatic, the way it drifts from one side of the head and over the top, before finally breaking on the opposite side.

Look at those waves. What currents shape such a thing? Beware of the undertow all ye who would venture into its depths!

But then as the series wears on, it either flattens or shortens – it’s hard to say which. By the final Test of the series, when the weary bowlers are on their last legs, it has become a smoother, flatter thing. A pure Lego man hairdo really; a greying helmet to protect that mighty brain.

Richie Benaud’s hair isn’t too important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s one of those fading memories we’re happy to refresh.

The episode covering the fourth Test has just gone onto our 1981 Ridiculous Ashes page. It contains two or three Richie references because he was such an important and excellent conduit for the action. Please have a listen and maybe catch up with the rest of the series too, if you haven’t already done so.

> Richie Benaud – the greatest commentator of them all

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  1. I hadn’t given Richie’s barnet much heed until now. Coiffeurial matters don’t rank high on my list generally. But looking at those pictures, to achieve that look, I suspect that there might be a hairpiece or even a full-blown wig involved.

    I’ll ask Daisy when I return to Noddyland at the weekend. She is, I believe, the only person around here who actually met Richie (on several occasions). She might have taken a look at reasonably close quarters, although, back then, she might not have been focussed on today’s question.

    I’ll report back. You can thank me now and/or afterwards.

  2. Nothing to do with his hairstyle, but…

    Can’t remember the test now as I was a schoolkid at the time (during the Summer holidays I think), but it was a live match between England vs West Indies in the early 1980’s somewhere in England at a time when test matches were broadcast live all day on, probably, BBC2 (rather than 1, but it might have been as they did that sort of thing back then). Mr Benaud was commentating.

    I think the bowler was Michael Holding, and he was having an issue with his trousers which were the ones tied up with a bit of string at the front. Benaud’s dry comment on the pause in play was, and I no doubt paraphrase a little, “When you’re running in fast, if it’s not tied down properly, it can take off like a helicopter”. His distinctive matter-of-fact Aussie accented delivery made it more out of left-field than would be the norm.

    There was a complete and prolonged silence in the unseen commentay box. As a young schoolkid, I had to think about that for a moment. Only Benaud could get away with such an inference, bar maybe some of those from the Golden Age of TMS.

  3. I’m too young to have many memories of Richie Benaud but he was an agreeable presence on Channel 4 in 2005 and on Channel 5 highlights packages latterly.

    To me, however, I’ve always doubted his warm and homely image. I think it’s the cruel, unsmiling eyes.

  4. Daisy confirms that Richie was a very agreeable man in real life. She also confirms that, almost without question, a toupee was intertwined with the real stuff atop his head.

  5. At my first-ever live cricket match in the *checks notes* C&G trophy back in the late-90s sometime, down at Taunton, after the game (which we won), virtually the entire crowd invaded the pitch and like a gas in a weird way, flowed over towards the comms box/player balconies for the presentations. Most were preoccupied not by the ceremonial events, but by repeatedly chanting “Richie, Richie, give us a wave!”.

    He did give us a wave.

    Richie Benaud.

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