SIR Peter O’Sullevan’s passing prompted inevitable debate about who is the greatest sports broadcaster of all.
It is a tantalising question – it was a young O’Sullevan, later Sir Peter, who gave a personal tutorial to one Richie Benaud as the legendary Australian cricketer made the transition to the commentary box.
Benaud, tasked with shadowing O’Sullevan at Newbury in 1956, was told not to say anything before the honour of a full debrief after the last race. The ‘voice of cricket’, who lost his own cancer struggle earlier this year, attributed his style, and success, to his mentor’s meticulous attention to detail – praise indeed.
Both became masters of their sport because they knew the viewer at home was the most important person. It was the same with Dan Maskell in tennis, Peter Alliss in golf or distinguished all-rounders of the calibre of Harry Carpenter, Desmond Lynam, David Coleman and Peter Jones, whose unscripted essay at 5pm on the day of the Hillsborough tragedy was a masterpiece.
Although everyone will have their personal favourite, Sir Peter O’Sullevan edges it for this correspondent because only he could commentate flawlessly on the chaos of 50 Grand Nationals, up until his 80th year, and provide the words to match.