Book Review December 2017

08/12/17 Category: Blog, News Posted by:

The Kid From Coraki – LR (Lou) Benaud – A Cricketing Journey
Published by The Cricket Publishing Company, Sydney 2017
ISBN 978-0-957-8089-4-2 RRP: $55.00

‘My brother and I were ‘doing’ spirit of cricket because of my father. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was where we always talked about cricket, he taught us how to behave whether we did well or badly, won or lost, if things were going well on the field or not and he instilled a love of the game in us.’ Richie Benaud Bradman Museum Interview 2009

The Benaud name is not only immediately associated with cricket but also high standards of character and is widely respected throughout Australia. Achievement at Test level, leadership through captaincy, cricket administration, journalism and broadcasting are synonymous with the name Benaud.

But where does such character come from? Is it spontaneous, random, serendipitous? This carefully crafted and private insight into the Benaud family confirms the opposite. Drawing on scrapbooks containing letters, match scorecards, and poems written and assembled by Richie and John’s father Lou, and complemented by many photos taken by their redoubtable mother Rene, we learn that while cricket was the dominant influence on the family, it was their reaction to it and the family culture which shaped their cricket and therefore their relationships, ethics and lives regardless if they were playing in Casino, Parramatta or Lord’s.

With a Foreword by Ian Chappell and an Afterword by Neil Marks the book is, in many ways, John and Richie Benaud’s, touching tribute to their father and mother. Detailed childhood recollections commence with the Benaud home at No. 5 Sutherland Rd North Parramatta, its modest but comfortable furnishings, the veranda where John played a form of cricket using ping pong balls and a stump souvenired by Richie from his first Test. Even the archaic laundry where his mother battled with hot and dangerous devices barely recalled today does not escape attention. Lou’s impact on the family is marked. He is recorded sweeping in after a day of school teaching followed by coaching the local school-boy team. Dinner time is ‘cricket central’ as he leads conversation discussing the game’s strategic nuances or potential deliveries available to the leg-spin bowler, urging his sons to outsmart the opposition using clandestine terms like the ‘pea and thimble’ field setting and mentoring them on how to always project absolute confidence on-field despite inevitable negative thoughts.

But this is much more than a family story, the book is important Australian social history. Lou’s recount details the Benauds generational association with North Coast River towns. We learn that Jean Benaud emigrated from France in 1837 to ply the NSW north coast as Captain in whimsically named steamers Pluto, Uncle Tom, Phoenix, Champion, Secret and William IV. Jean lived in Taree and Wingham and was well known along waterways with names like Richmond, Manning, Clarence and Hastings. These names abound in the text and it is perhaps not surprising that Jean’s descendants become fine rowers gaining local fame in that once popular past-time. The Benauds also establish themselves in diverse trades like watchmaking and, somewhat prophetically, the newspaper trade. They make an impact on their communities becoming established and essential businesses.

While Lou vividly describes community life in the river town his most enthusiastic writings revolve around cricket. We follow his sporting rise from birth-place Coraki, to his first job as a school teacher at Casino, a newly married husband struggling against heat and limited resources at Koorawatha (between Cowra and Young), school master and new father at Jugiong in South West New South Wales. Eventually the family settle in Western Sydney as his increasingly guileful leg-spin (he once dismisses a side twice by taking all 10 wickets in both innings) and assertive batting carry him into high levels of regional representative cricket. Matches and moments are sharply recalled, supported by insertions of the local paper’s reports and previously unpublished photos from the family album. As Lou’s own career wanes, he diligently records those of his sons. It’s all there, press cuttings, letters, photos, the Ashes and its many characters. Richie’s bowling is closely documented. Even detail on his chronically split index finger is escribed as it threatens to limit his career until a pharmacist in Timaru (NZ) comes to the rescue indirectly helping write cricket history. John’s achievements are also chronicled. Selection for the 1973 Australian tour of the West Indies, playing against The World XI and the controversial career interrupting cricket boots all make fascinating reading.

Primary sources anchor this book and give it a weighty authenticity. It is written against the backdrop of world events including the two wars and the Great Depression. This in combination with Lou’s observant and flowing text, piqued with cricketing wisdom, make for an entertaining and highly readable book for those who both love cricket or only have passing interest. A mandatory and equally relevant inclusion in any north coast regional library as well as those held by cricket enthusiasts everywhere, readers of The Kid From Coraki will learn much from it about 19th and 20th Century Australian history as well as the true spirit of cricket.

In addition to the Bradman Museum, The Kid From Coraki is available from The Cricket Publishing Company. Email: [email protected]

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