Radio Five Live’s “Voices of Summer” programme reminded me of one of the reasons why I love cricket. A sad occasion on Friday reminded me of another, and of a man who would have loved the fact that a clutch of former colleagues gathered to pay their respects to him on a sunny day with England playing a one day international at Lord’s.
Cricket is the only game where I showed the merest flicker of ability. I played at a social level for 20 years, at times alongside my father. It was not an unusual situation. Friday’s funeral was for one of his peers, a leg spin bowler and occasional wicket keeper.
His son, who bowled much quicker, told of a man who never regarded defeat or victory as important, just that the game was fun. When John Snell laughed, he laughed with his shoulders. He’d have smiled at the side we would have picked from those in attendance, some of whom came through the youth section that he helped to run. It was at the same time that I started listening to “Test Match Special.”
My earliest recollection is the 1974-75 Ashes series in Australia, listening to Alan McGilvray and Lindsay Hassett describing the final session of the day before going to school. The following summer saw the first World Cup, with the atmosphere of the Lord’s final oozing through the radio as John Arlott told of Clive Lloyd’s brilliant century. I waited for one specific clip during that innings in Thursday night’s programme. I wasn’t disappointed. “The shot of a man knocking a thistle top off with a walking stick, no trouble at all.” I’ve loved the show ever since and Arlott’s successors have picked up the bat and, in their own ways, widened the appeal without losing the core audience,
Correspondent Jonathan Agnew is now as much a presenter as a commentator. There is interaction through e-mail and social media, and new voices have been introduced both as commentators and pundits. It’s hard to believe Simon Mann has been part of the team for more than 15 years, but gradually, especially for one day internationals, Charles Dagnall, Ed Smith – both former players – and a first female voice, Alison Mitchell, have joined the team. Slipping comfortably into the pundits chair, Phil Tufnell, Alec Stewart and Michael Vaughan have complimented the long serving Vic Marks and Geoffrey Boycott.
Marks highlighted the role of the summariser as being one to “tell the audience something they didn’t know” and the ebb and flow of cricket makes the summariser a key part of the programme. Vaughan’s tactical clarity as a recent former captain is a great addition, Stewart’s guage of a good score gives the match immediate perspective and Tufnell, on the surface the joker, adds to an overall blend which is pithy and knowledgeable.
As you may have seen on Twitter recently, there has seen some verbal posturing about one of the BBC’s other leading sporting “brands”, Match of the Day. The men concerned were Jake Humphrey, who has left his role as the BBC’s Formula 1 anchor to join BT Sport, and Gary Lineker, the long standing host of MOTD. Both outlets will offer Premier League coverage on television next season, but they have different views on the way forward, with Humphrey believing his new employers’
use of current or recently retired players giving more credibility.
Ultimately the audience will tell the decision makers who they think has got it right. Perhaps, quietly, and in a way that befits a game that can last five days, TMS has upheld Humphrey’s argument since those winter mornings nearly 40 years ago when I heard England, half way round the world, come face to face with Lillee and Thomson.
Voices of Summer will be repeated on BBC Five Live Sports Extra on Wednesday at 12.00
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