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.
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