Life after Benaud

On Desert Island Discs, you are allowed one luxury. Given mine would be a magical television that showed all available live cricket (as well as choice re-runs), I’d be able to pick my favourite pundits to describe the action. Who are my top commentators? In theory, I would only need two to cover the matches, but that would be unfair on them (I’m not a tyrant), so I’d hire five to mix it up and give the others a rest.

Richie Benaud in the comm box

Therefore, below are my five favourite commentators. Benaud would have been there, of course, as would Brian Johnston, but we must all move on. There are honourable mentions for Lloyd, Gower, Holding, Dujon, Nasser, Knight, Ward, Smith, Lawry and Greig, but these five pick themselves.My Top Five: Michael Atherton, Jimmy Adams, Michael Slater, Geoff Boycott and Simon Hughes.

I can’t imagine anyone will disagree, but then it’s your island. Pick who you like!

Singing in the style of Brian Johnston

“Is it the Ashes … yes, it’s the Ashes, England have won the Ashes!” Those words, memorably and rather wheezily uttered by Brian Johnston in 1953, are often impersonated in Cricinfo. And on a rare day in which we had no cricket to cover, I discovered a brand new game with which to irritate my colleagues: singing in the style of Johnners. It is a game of infinite possibilities and variations. Be it punk, metal, folk, garage, rap, you too can sound as daft as me. I had particular fun with Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer while my boss, a fellow Ramones fan, suggested Sheena is a Punk Rocker:

Well the kids are all hopped up and ready to go
They’re ready to go now
They’ve got their surfboards
And they’re going to the discotheque a go go
But she just couldn’t stay
She had to break away
Well New York City really has it all
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker now
She’s a punk punk, a punk rocker
Punk punk, a punk rocker
Punk punk, a punk rocker

Suggestions welcome

Cricketana in 2006

Nice piece in today’s Wisden Almanack special on cricketana last year.

But auctions and controversy do seem to go together. In November, Christie’s auctioned what was definitely a cricket ball. It was said to be the one that Garry Sobers clobbered for the last of his six sixes in an over at Swansea in 1968. But how do we know it was that ball?

Christie’s had done a great deal of research. A 17-year-old spectator, Richard Lewis, searched for the ball as he was leaving the ground and found it in the gutter. The ball was handed back to Sobers and was believed to have been destined for the Trent Bridge Museum. But it never got there. For a time it was on display in one of the bars there, then supporters’ club secretary Josie Miller popped it in her make-up drawer for safe keeping. The ball arrived at Christie’s with a certificate of provenance signed by Sobers. But some players from the match say Stuart Surridge balls were in use. This was a Dukes. On the other hand, at least two balls were used in that over, so the replacement could have been a different make. Whatever, it made £22,000.

With relief, one can report there were no arguments at all about the burr walnut Victorian kidney-shaped pedestal desk sold by Bonham’s in March for £54,000 to an anonymous bidder. Barry Johnston, son of Brian, has fond memories of his father sitting at the desk in his study.

“Every morning, he would religiously sit at this desk and sort through his post,” he recalled. “He would receive countless letters from cricket fans and people asking him to open fêtes and so on, and he would scribble replies on the back of Donald McGill’s saucy seaside postcards – whether it was to a cricket fan or a bishop.”

There are always a host of really interesting, different, offbeat articles in the Almanack and we’ll be putting one up each week in its usual Sunday slot. Of course, you really ought to just go and buy it as well.

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.

Caption Competition – posters for winners!

In case you haven’t already entered, be sure to check out our very fine caption competition at Cricinfo. We have three of these brilliant posters on offer – signed, too – of BBC’s Test Match Special commentators. Rather spiffing, I think you’ll agree but be warned: the standard is rather high. The poster includes caricatures (too late to check the spelling) of John Arlott, Jonathan Agnew, Henry Blofeld and of course Brian Johnston. Or if you’re not one of the three lucky winners, you can buy one.