Magazine article The Spectator

Missing Blowers et Al

Magazine article The Spectator

Missing Blowers et Al

Article excerpt

A friend emailed from abroad wondering why there was no Test Match Special broadcasting the first Test against the West Indies at Sabina Park in Jamaica on Radio Four long wave. He normally receives it on his satellite television system. He was unaware or had forgotten that the BBC lost the rights to overseas cricket tours to talkSPORT (as it's called), the independent network run by the former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie. The BBC had been rather complacent about these rights, allowing talkSPORT to strike, though, if memory serves, the corporation wasn't given much opportunity to counter that station's audacious bid.

Curiously, its coverage of the Test seemed rather staid compared with TMS. It has a similar format: a commentator and pundit together in the box with guest speakers entering from time to time. Tony Greig, the former England captain, is the main commentator, with Jack Bannister as the pundit. When I was listening, Michael Atherton and Courtney Walsh appeared as guests to discuss the finer points of play. Greig is fluent, a good commentator, and so is Bannister, who used to appear on TMS, but there seems little banter of the kind we're familiar with from Henry Blofeld and Jonathan Agnew. There was a mention, when rain stopped play, of England supporters dancing with West Indians, but that was all I heard.

Although lively in tone, it sounds rather earnest, which I know some people prefer. I rather like the jokes and the non-cricketing references on TMS. No chocolate cakes or Agnew pranks here, no passing seagulls or buses for Blofeld to scrutinise. Greig and Bannister also appear to be more critical of the game's authorities, less polite than TMS; they were positively scathing when the umpires consulted each other about the fading light. As it happens, the umpires were right as shortly after it bucketed down. A problem is that talkSPORT is on medium wave, which deteriorates quite badly in the evening unless you have a digital radio or listen to it on satellite TV. This is unfortunate for a tour like this as the Tests start in the afternoon and continue until late in the evening. Interference increases, the sound will fall away and then surge back and this, coupled with the noisy West Indian music in the background, makes it difficult to hear what's being said some of the time. Spectator noise might provide atmosphere, but talkSPORT should find a way of muting it more in the evening. …

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