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September 1, 2005
Richie Benaud will commentate his last Test in England at The Oval next week. Benaud, who has been cricket broadcasting's most comfortable armchair for the past 42 years, will hang up the microphone when Channel 4's contract with the ECB expires after the fifth Test. He has ruled out a switch to Sky, who control the rights from next season.
"It is time to say goodbye because I won't be doing any more television in the United Kingdom," Benaud told Cricinfo in an exclusive interview. "I'll still be doing free-to-air in Australia. I've got a three-year contract with Channel 9 which will probably be extended."
Benaud, 74, said he knew the time was right to retire, just as he did when he ended his Test career in 1964, but he regretted the loss of C4's coverage. "From the production and direction point of view, they've been quite magnificent in the six years that they've been doing it," he said.
While international cricket will be available only on subscription television in England from next season until 2009, Benaud refused to challenge the decision. Instead he praised the Australian government's move in March 2004 to produce legislation that ensured cricket remained on free-to-air and hoped the game would again be available on terrestrial broadcasts.
"There are only two groups of people who have control over that," he said of the ECB's decision to give the rights to Sky. "The first is the government of the day and the second is the ECB. It's the ECB who persuaded the government to take cricket off the restricted list."
Admired throughout the world, Benaud was last month voted the runaway winner in The Wisden Cricketer's commentators' poll. "It's a great compliment from the people who have been watching over the years and I very, very much appreciate it," he said. "One of the reasons is that I've been coming over to England for 42 years. I spent a long time with the BBC and then with Channel 4, all on free-to-air. And a lot of the stuff I have done with Channel 9 in Australia has come back to England as well. It's something that I'll treasure."
Despite deserving a long rest, Benaud quickly rejected talk of total retirement and is currently promoting his book My Spin on Cricket. "What I won't be doing is television in the United Kingdom," he said. "Daphne, my wife, and I will be over in England in the next couple of years. I want to keep writing if I can. I love writing because it's the first thing I did before I did any television."
The comprehensive interview with Richie Benaud in Q & A format can be read here.
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