This article first appeared on Reaction.Life
Test Match Cricket, Sky Sports
Test Match Special, 5 Live Sports Extra
On Wednesday cricket fans around the world finally got what they were almost panting for – some live test match action. It didn’t last long, given the English weather, but no matter. From an England point of view, they must have hoped the rain might have been a little harder on Thursday given the number of wickets that toppled throughout a miserable, dank, grey day.
Since the BBC lost the rights for live England test matches, Sky have transformed the viewing experience. Gone are the comfy slippers of Richie Benaud and Tony Lewis, where their silences sometimes spoke as much as their words of wisdom. Modern day test cricket has much more pizzazz, not to the extent of the One Dayers or T-20, but television dictates that it’s not just sport, it’s entertainment. And Sky does it very well. The silences are still there, but shorter than in the past.
But whatever the delights of Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Rob Key are, they will never be able, no matter how hard they try, to beat the entertainment provided by the denizens of the Test Match Special commentary box. I grew up listening to the programme when it was ostensibly in its heyday - the 1970s and 1980s. The mellifluous tones of John Arlott and Brian Johnston alongside Fred Trueman and Bill Frindall were simply sublime. When Henry Blofeld retired in 2017, and Goeffrey Boycott was “let go” earlier this year, it really did signal the end of the old guard. The modern day team headed by Jonathan Agnew, Michael Vaughan, Alison Mitchell and Phil Tufnell may not contain the big names of the past, but the atmosphere remains the same. It’s listening to mates talking about cricket down the pub, with the odd bit play as an interruption.
When I first got into cricket in the mid 1970s, the West Indies were the team to beat. Their batsmen and bowlers were the best in the world. Names like Viv Richards, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Curtley Ambrose, Joel Garner, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge – I could go on. That decade was a golden one for the West Indies, and yet forty years on it is incredible to witness their decline. For my generation, though, they will always be a main attraction.
Cricket in the Covid 19 era isn’t as weird to watch live as football. Watching a Premier League game is akin to watching a pre-season friendly. It is almost like watching a different sport. Test match cricket is different. I don’t know why. It just is. There’s a degree of normality which escapes live football matches without crowds. And long may it remain so.
David Lloyd’s Radio Moments podcast
Radio Moments Conversations podcast
If you work in the radio industry, you know who David Lloyd is. If you don’t you probably think he’s a gym. In his career he’s managed various radio stations, including LBC and the Free Radio group in Birmingham. He’s written several books about radio and what he doesn't know about the sector isn’t really worth knowing. Each week he contributes a 7-10 minute piece for the excellent Radio Today podcast showcasing radio moments from this particular week in years gone by. In his own Radio Moments podcast he posts short pieces of memorable radio from the present and the past. However, it’s his Conversations podcasts which really hit the mark for the radio geeks among us. Although the podcast is titled ‘Conversations’, David Lloyd doesn’t feature in them at all. But through skilful editing he makes an hour long monologue from his interviewee sound like a conversation. Recent guests have included radio legends like Simon Mayo, David (Kid) Jensen, John Humphrys and Mike Read. It’s like putting on an old glove as you listen to them reminisce about their careers. I guarantee that if you listen to one episode, you’ll gradually trawl through the back catalogue.