Test Match Special at 50

Is it not time for more female voices on TMS? “I hoped Claire Connor might be the one, but I don’t worry too much about not having a female,” said Baxter.

“The audience have to be comfortable with the commentators and most female voices need to be pitched a bit lower. You need an alto, not a soprano. Clare Balding has a perfect voice for radio.” And what advice would he have for his successor?

“I hope he (Baxter presumes it will be a man) doesn’t lose sight of the fact the commentary is the main thing,” he said.

So says Peter Baxter, Test Match Special’s producer since time began. Interesting comments, and not something I’d ever considered. Personally, I find Balding’s voice almost indistinguishable from a man’s. Indeed, listening to her and Willie Carson speaking, it’s difficult to determine who exactly wears the trousers. So to speak.

Anyway, well done TMS. I don’t listen to it these days as we’re glued to the screen, for obvious reasons, but it remains the best of British. But for how long? With Baxter hanging up his microphone, he sounds an ominous warning note to his successor

“Five Live have people who are in charge of things called “station sound” and that rings a few alarm bells. The whole point of TMS is that it doesn’t sound like other commentaries.”

Station sound? I shudder at the thought. There’s every chance that some shallow-sighted media freaks could ruin a British institution, turning it into a brash (and by proxy, dull) service. Come on BBC: leave it alone. Change is not always for the best. There will be quite a few TMS pieces on Cricinfo tomorrow and over the week, starting with Andrew Miller’s interview with Baxter, so keep your mince pies peeled.

Who were your favourite commentators? What do you make of the current crop? Favourite TMS moment? etc. Not that I listen nearly as much as I’d like, but I think Mike Selvey is particularly brilliant and works well with Vic Marks.

Petition to enable ex-pats access to BBC overseas

Crafty Leak writes:

It is SHOCKING that the BBC (and I guess ABC in Australia) do not allow an “international” tournament (with half empty cricket grounds!) to be broadcast on-line “outside the UK”! Do they want to help cricket grow as a sport or not?

So what if you are a UK TV license fee payer who lives abroad? You pay for the BBC, then they deny you rights to their services because you are outside the UK – IT’S DAYLIGHT ROBBERY!

There is a campaign on the 10 Downing Street website to allow non-UK users access to BBC services:

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/BBC-4-Expats/

Check it out and SIGN it! All it involves is entering your passport number – simple really, as the technology is there!

Worth signing. I have friends overseas who are continually frustrated by the lack of access to TMS while still holding their UK passport. I don’t doubt it’s technically possible, but there is no doubt a whole mile-long length of red tape to go through first. So…sign up.

Super jacket, that

The cream, the bone, the white, the off-white, the ivory, or the beige? It’s Richie Benaud from the 1974-75 series

Super jacket, that

Courtesy of TMS.

Technology of covering and following cricket

Technology has moved on massively even in the short time I’ve followed the game. Back then, in the familiar gloom of the 1990s, few people bothered with Sky. It required a “dish” which implied a small and unobtrusive space-age work of genius. In fact, they were the size of a small car and were concreted onto the sides of flats which almost collapsed under the weight. They were also bright white, or they were until the pigeons took aim.

All change. The dishes are now properly unobtrusive – digital, even – and are sucked onto the walls of every estate in Britain. And here is the BBC’s Test Match Special producer, Caroline, with their own version.

Caroline from the BBC with a satellite dish

I miss the old days sometimes. Ceefax, waiting for the colours to change (not out batsmen were in white, I think, and those dismissed turned green. Appropriately.) Can’t remember what blue meant. But there was a thrill in watching the screen, if the radio was knackered, waiting for it to change. And there was usually (but not always) a delay in updates if a wicket had fallen…so you’d sit there, sweaty palmed, and wait for the batsman to turn green.

This was all before Cricinfo came along. Now that we’re doing ball-by-ball commentary editorially – with more of a voice, colour, interesting facts etc – the response has been incredible. We even get emails from fishermen at sea…in the middle of the bloody sea, reading our website and following commentary. It’s ridiculous.

So I don’t miss the old days that much. There is too much cricket being played; the game is played at a new, frenetic pace (except when Collingwood’s batting); Zimbabwe are, well, whatever. But the coverage, and access of cricket news for the fans, is unprecedentedly broad. It’s pretty damn good.

What do you miss from the dark old black-and-white (or white and green) days and what modern marvels do you like the most?

Get in the mood for the first Test

What better way (for an Englishman at least) to get in the mood for Wednesday night than to listen to the BBC cricket theme tune, Booker T and the MG’s Soul Limbo. Listen, loop, and enjoy.

Rediscovering Test Match Special

At work we obviously have to watch every ball, not simply listen to it. And down here in Devon, without Sky for some reason, I’ve just turned on the radio for the past hour which has brought memories back of listening to TMS in my youth. It really is a brilliant way of following a Test. You miss the pictures of course, but somehow feel even closer to the action.

One thing I can’t work out is who the heavy-breather is. It’s not Boycott or Agnew…anyone else hear it?

Here’s Salcombe this afternoon where I’ve been supping pints overlooking the sea

Salcombe

Competition from the BBC

Well, I suppose it was inevitable. TMS have finally broken into the 21st century with their first blog. Doubt they even read this one but, whatever…well done them. Let’s see if they can keep it regularly updated though.

I was being churlish when I wrote the title, of course. You can’t compete with eachother on blogs; they are personal and characterised by the writers. Some people will like them, and your style, and some won’t. BBC have one rather large thing in their favour in that a) they have a bit more money than me and b) employ half the western hemisphere. Anyway, rock on. If any of the BBC chaps are reading, drop me a note – I’d be interested to talk.

If you must leave here, to go there, then click here (if that makes sense).

Bill Frindall’s autobiography

Bearders: My Life In Cricket
I’m reviewing Bill Frindall’s autobiography – Bearders: My Life In Cricket – which, I’ll be perfectly honest, hasn’t filled me with wonder and awe. However, in the dozen or so pages I flicked through last night (he has chapters on most of his colleagues over the years: John Arlott, Jonathan Agnew, Vic Marks, Brian Johnston – all that lot) it could be quite entertaining. I’m just a bit worried that the statistical stuff might get in the way.

We’ll see. He’s the editor of the long-running (and firm favourite of mine) Playfair Cricket Annual, and has been Test Match Special’s scorer seemingly for ever.

BBC can’t keep their minds on the Test Match

I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy your lovin’ is all I think about
I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy it’s more than I dare to think about

I have been reduced to listening to BBC online for my Test match fix, and what’s astonished me about the broadcast is how hard the TMS team are finding it to keep their minds on the job. At the drop of a hat they are musing on the Ashes battles ahead. One darn fool idiot (it could be Foxy Fowler) told CMJ just now that McGrath doesn’t like bowling to left handers. That might be news to Brian Lara, for just one.

It’s noticable because I’ve been used to listen to South African and Asian as well as Australian broadcasters the last nine months, and while the Ashes have been mentioned, it isn’t as noticable as it is with the English media.

BBC secure radio rights

The BBC have secured radio rights in India for four years, which is a welcome relief to those who enjoy Test Match Special. The deal allows them to broadcast England’s current tour of India, and other international teams who visit, over the next four years. Sky, meanwhile, are being shafted by Nimbus, who paid an astonishing amount of money (over $600m) for exclusive rights to broadcast cricket on TV in India.