The sound of Australian summers won't be the same without Richie Benaud.

“My memories of a happy, safe and distinctly Aussie childhood will always be intertwined with the sound of ‘the voice of cricket’.”

There are Sara Lee croissants warming in the oven, a ‘sometimes’ food we look forward to every January school holidays. They fill the beach house with that delicious smell only hot buttered pastry can provide.

Richie Benaud was as iconic to Australian summers as Bondi Beach.

It’s mid-week, so there are still several days until the next ‘cleaning inspection’ of the bunk-bed room all the kids share, (after which our tidiness will either be reprimanded with harsh words or rewarded with lolly shop spending money). The result is an explosion of boogy boards, thongs, Snap n’Crackle bar wrappers, hair ties, half-finished friendship bracelets and collectable Tazos.

Mum and her girlfriends are at the kitchen table sharing the morning’s third pot of tea, while each tends to a different child’s needs. One is combing out a previously hidden, enormous knot of hair from the base of her daughter’s scalp; seven days of sea and salt build up making the task that much harder. Another is attempting to resuscitate a Tamagotchi cat toy – the current year six must-have item – whose demise has prompted a continuous electronic beeping that is driving us all bonkers.

Jamila and her sister, Mim. Image via Instagram.

I’m standing behind the couch, arms folded and my tongue poking into the inside of my right cheek. I’m dressed in my wetsuit, ready to go to the beach and hopefully grab an ice cream (waffle cone, please) on the way home. I’ve been begging to go for what feels like eternity but in reality is more like 15 minutes. No adult will take me.

Dad and his mates recline in arm chairs and on the big green couch, a couple of the younger children are sprawled on the floor in various states of half-dress. All eyes are on the television. It’s cricket season after all.

“Mela, I’ll take you as soon as they break for lunch” Dad says, his gaze never moving from the screen.

The other cricket-watchers mumble in agreement.

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“When’s that?” I demand, not remotely considerate of how deeply my father loves this game and how painful my incessant interruptions must be.

“Nine overs” comes the unanimous reply from the couch.

I storm out, slamming the door behind me for dramatic effect. I throw myself onto the lower bunk in the fashion of a Disney Princess and contemplate this great injustice of my young life: Cricket.

Just like the 7 o’clock ABC news, it always takes precedent over me. Except cricket doesn’t last just half an hour, it goes on for days and days. In the summer holidays it becomes never-ending.

I roll onto my back and stare at the wooden base of the bed above me, wondering how many minutes nine overs translates to, as the dulcet tones of Richie Benaud hum through the crack underneath my door.

richie benaud tribute
Richie Benaud. Image via Getty.

He’s the only commentator that dad and his mates never criticise; the man whose contribution is always spot on. At that particular moment, Benaud has made a polite but funny crack that has the commentary box and half my household in hysterics. A vigorous debate about leg spin technique follows.

Richie Benaud is the sound of my summer holidays.

Each year is different of course. Sometimes Mum books too late and we have to stay at a different beach house. Other families and friends join us for long or short periods, giving me a much-needed break from the company of my little sister. Sometimes the surf is too big, or heaps of seaweed washes up, or the blue bottles might come and we end up playing mini-golf so many times that the entire family can make par on the notorious difficult windmill hole.

But along with pistachio ice-cream, sand in the bed sheets, and fights with mum about whether or not I have to wear a rash vest, Richie Benaud’s commentary is a constant.

richie benaud tribute
“Richie Benaud is the sound of my summer holidays.” Image via Getty.

As a kid, I never really appreciated Benaud. I never really appreciated cricket at all.

And as an adult I’m not that different, never having developed the intense passion for the game that my loved ones share. What I have grown to appreciate is what the summer of cricket represents for my family and so many families all over Australia.

Related: Richie Benaud passes away, aged 84.

It’s not really summer without the cricket on the TV. It’s not really summer unless your daily timetable is dictated by when drinks or lunch or tea is called. It’s not really summer unless there’s been at least one outbreak of spontaneous laughter when the scoreboard ticks over to “chew for chwenty-chew”. It’s not really summer until someone suggests playing clips of the Twelfth Man and a game of who can recite the most memorable Richie Benaud quotes commences.

Richie Benaud was not just an outstanding sportsman, generous commentator and true gentleman of the game, his voice provided the backdrop for entire generations of Australian summers.

richie benaud tribute
“Richie Benaud was not just an outstanding sportsman, generous commentator and true gentleman of the game…” Image via Getty.

My memories of a happy, safe and distinctly Aussie childhood will always be intertwined with the sound of ‘the voice of cricket’. And I know that, cricket lovers or not, there are millions like me.

Learning of Richie Benaud’s death today, at the age of 84, I am thinking of his friends and family and of lovers of the game everywhere. I know that for devotees of Australian cricket, test matches will never quite be the same and I’m so sorry for that.

I am also sorry for the Australian summers to come, memories of which will no longer be framed around the deeply pleasurable utterance of “marvellous innings”.

Vale, Richie Benaud.