The Unforgettable Lesson I Learnt from
the Legendary Richie Benaud
By Rafique S.M. Ahmed
Having lived in the United States for the last forty-six years when I take a look at my entire life, I feel very fortunate, blessed and extremely grateful to Allah Almighty for showering His Blessings on me throughout my life regardless of what part of the world I lived in. The recent death of the iconic cricketer and legendary commentator, Richie Benaud has taken me down the memory lane to my childhood town, Karachi, where in the sixties I got a great opportunity to develop a special rapport with the greatest Australian cricketer after Sir Donald Bradman - Richie Benaud - during his last tour of Pakistan as captain of Australia.
I was in my early twenties at that time and also the youngest member of the Karachi Cricket Association when the KCA assigned me to handle crucial responsibilities on two very prestigious committees namely Test Match Organizing Committee under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner of Karachi and also as the Assistant Editor of the Publication Committee to publish the official souvenirs of KCA together with my mentor and Editor, Munir Hussain to commemorate the Test Matches played at the Karachi National Stadium. Work on the Publication Committee used to start long before Test Matches started, was very tedious and time-consuming with respect to collecting personal profiles and pictures of visiting cricketers (there was no internet at that time), advertisements etc., and eventually resulting in the printing of the official souvenirs before the start of the Test Match. As a member of the Test Match Organizing Committee, normally my responsibility used to be the Players Enclosure or the Player's Guest Enclosure. As Incharge of the Players Enclosure, I was responsible for taking care of all Test cricketers from both teams on a one-to-one basis.
During the Karachi Test, Richie Benaud started feeling comfortable with me. I think it was the second day of the match. I was talking to Richie when his wicket keeper came over to talk to him. I very bluntly said, "You are Grout, the wicket keeper, right?" At that time, Richie Benaud interrupted and like a college professor told me, " Young man, you are a well-behaved and responsible person. Let me educate you on something which you apparently lack. My wicket keeper's full name is Wally Grout . Wally is his first name and Grout is his last name. You could call anyone by his first name like Wally or Richie. However, when we call someone by the last name, we need to be respectful. Instead of calling Grout, we should always call Mr. Grout. Calling the last name without Mr, Mrs, or Miss is kind of rude." I immediately apologized to Wally Grout and also thanked Richie for helping me learn the proper etiquette of the last name which has helped me tremendously in the US over the years. It was unfortunate that until 1969 when I left Pakistan for the United States, there was no concept of the last name in the country. After 46 years, I don't know what the situation is now. Are the parents still giving different last names to each one of their children? Only Allah knows.
After retiring from Test cricket, Richie Benaud acquired special training in broadcasting and embarked on a new career as a cricket commentator. For more than forty years, he not only captured the hearts of millions of fans with his descriptive and analytical cricket commentary, but also earned the coveted title of
"The Voice Of Cricket" worldwide. Unfortunately, the 'Voice' is gone forever which has created a big void that cannot be filled for centuries to come. May God bless my College Professor (Richie) and rest his soul in peace.