Tag: Test Match Special

Henry ‘Blowers’ Blofeld to retire from TMS

Henry Blofeld (CC licensed by ramograph via Flickr)

Henry Blofeld, the long-serving Test Match Special commentator with the extraordinary accent and a strong proclivity for getting players’ names wrong, is calling it a day at the end of the season. It’s safe to say we’ve always had mixed feelings about the man.

If we were to try and sum up those feelings, we’d say that we like the idea of there being a commentator who works in a similar way to Blowers – we’d just maybe prefer it if that person wasn’t Blowers himself.

“A lot of our audience are people doing housework wanting a comfortable voice,” he said, announcing his decision to stand down. “I talk about pigeons, seagulls, policemen and the girl in the red dress in the grandstand. It’s all that, I think, which attracts people along with the cricket.”

You may think that. But not everyone will entirely agree.

If you’re trying to follow a match, this kind of thing is not always endearing. Sometimes it’s just irritating and maybe even a bit embarrassing – but then at times Blowers becomes such a self parody that it actually becomes endearing again.

It’s a tricky one and no mistake.

The issue, as we see it, is this. Test cricket ebbs and flows and commentary must ebb and flow with it. There are definitely times for talking about irrelevant bollocks, but there are also times where you need to focus on the action.

Blofeld isn’t bad at conveying excitement and he certainly understands cricket. He does however seem to have been taking less and less of an interest in touring players and what they might have achieved outside of the English summer.

Maybe you think that’s unfair, but we can’t really recall him saying anything about a player that we didn’t already know. Getting people’s names wrong can also derail things when listeners are trying to follow a crucial passage of play.

That said, we’re not delighted about Blowers’ departure, as we perhaps would have been a few years back. There was a period when the narrow array of TMS accents made us embarrassed to listen to cricket in the back garden as it sounded like coverage of some niche upper-class pursuit.

Nowt wrong with a plummy accent, but there was a lack of diversity in the commentary box for a while there. As someone who is essentially a cricket evangelist, this frustrated us enormously as it reinforced a widely held perception of the game that we have always thought unfair.

TMS accents are less of an issue these days and it’s pleasing to see that the programme’s commitment to diversity belatedly extends to gender too. Maybe at some point soon they’ll feel there’s a significant gap and find themselves actively seeking out a rambling Old Etonian to put in the occasional shift.


Following the protagonist through the formats – players and audience in the T20 era

We had an interesting (to us) chat to Charles Dagnall of Test Match Special (TMS) via Twitter yesterday. At one point he said something closely related to a number of our recurrent themes/hobby horses on this site and we were faintly annoyed with ourself for not having put the thought into words ourself.

We were discussing how people become cricket fans in the first place and more specifically where Test Match Special’s future audience will come from. In response to our comment that some people (not him) seem to think that it’ll arrive fully-formed, grey-haired in blazer and tie, Daggers said: “Much like the actual players who are playing tests via T20, expect audiences to do exactly the same.”

We immediately felt that there was a lot of truth in this; that a hypothetical fan might grow with a player and follow him/her through the formats. We’ve always felt that cricket’s shorter formats offer a route towards Test cricket and we’re also big on the following of a sport being about narrative and characters. Despite this, we’d somehow never taken this to the logical conclusion of one fan following one player to their five-day destination.

To provide some background to the conversation…

It came about after we had bitched and moaned about an article by Roy Greenslade in the Guardian. Roy basically thinks that cricket’s going to die because he sat a child down in front of a session of a Test match and they weren’t instantly enthralled.

He might as well have sat this kid down for episode seven of series three of The Wire. You need to work your way up to and then into these things and to draw conclusions without comprehending that seems almost wilfully wrong-headed.

This is almost certainly unfair, but it seemed symptomatic of the sort of person who became a fan of Test cricket by listening to TMS when they were 10 and who cannot comprehend that others may have arrived at the same destination via a rather different route.

There are many paths. As a 10-year-old, we struggled to sit and watch more than five minutes of cricket. We’d have much rather been doing something else. While that something was quite often cricket, it could also have been football or it may not even have been sport at all.

If that were today, there would doubtless be those who would despair at our impatience and lament modern society’s role in the slow demise of Test cricket. But it wasn’t today. It was 1988. In 2016 we write about Test cricket near enough daily and near enough for free.


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