It sounds like some kind of WWE tag team grudge match. In one corner is Test Match Special’s Jonathan “The Assassin” Agnew and his partner Christopher “Cool Man Jiving” Martin-Jenkins, in the other from the Test Match Sofa crew is “Dangerous” Daniel Norcross and Gary “Nailer” Naylor (Be gentle on Yates, he couldn’t think of wrestler type nicknames for the other Sofa crew.)
Yates can’t quite see Aggers going all Randy “Macho Man” Savage on the Sofa crew but a recent article by CMJ has caused something of a stir, going down about as well as Yates’ Great White Eared Elephant impression at his mother’s birthday party. Words like “predatory” and “pilfering” have been seen doing the rounds. Yates isn’t sure the “Macho Man” would ever have used the word “pilfering” though…
Editor of The Cricketer (which now owns the Sofa) Andrew Miller posted a reply in the Daily Mail and the discussion has been ongoing via Twitter for a while now, with tweeters from both sides having a say.
Yates grew up with TMS. Yates got his radio confiscated several times at school, slept with said radio on during tours down under, a favourite memory being of the commentary of Jack Richards’ 133 at Perth in 1986/7. Not much sleep was had that night and Yates got into trouble for falling asleep in lessons the next day. The classic hysterical laughter moments between Agnew and Brian Johnston when Ian Botham “couldn’t quite get his leg over” are a part of cricket history. TMS is part of the establishment.
Test Match Sofa is a much more recent arrival. It has a different humour to TMS, it interacts differently (and some would say better) with its audience than TMS. Players are announced with jingles, some of which leaves Yates befuddled, and there is a very different approach to describing the game. Yates has to say that he loved Gary Naylor’s commentary during the Champions League T20 final. Where Bill Lawry, Harsha Bhogle, or certain other commentators in the pay of governing bodies would have gone totally loopy over what was essentially crap bowling being despatched as it deserved to be, Gary’s commentary veered towards the minimal and his tone told you all you needed to know about the bowling. So Yates raises his glass to Gary. Test Match Sofa is very much the new kid on the block.
A fundamental part of the reasons for CMJ’s article is that the BBC have paid money to the ECB for radio rights to broadcast test match commentary from the ground. Giles Clarke is already on record as saying that he feels pirate streams are a major threat to ECB revenues and this ties in nicely with that theme. Test Match Sofa has paid only its subscription to Sky Sports so they can commentate from Sofa HQ.
Providing commentary but not being at the ground is not a new thing. Yates often provided commentary to his grandfather. This match should be an easy one for cricket following folk to identify:
“Sanjeev Sharma bowling to Graham Gooch, drives – edges and bloody hell, even I’d have caught that one! Goochie drove at it, didn’t move his feet that much, got the edge and Kiran More muffed it.”
“Shastri shuffles in and bowls to Gooch who, ouch, wow, he came down the track and absolutely moosed that one. I think it’s gone into the building site. That’ll scuff the ball up some!”
“Hemmings wobbles in, send a dart down, that’s all you need to.. oh no, [censored]. Total lack of thought from Hemmings, tossed up again and Kapil’s hit that one for a straight six too. Lovely hit again from Kapil but Eddie Hemmings, what were you doing?”
Was that “pilfering”? Should Yates have paid the ECB for his providing commentary to his grandfather? Seedy Giles would no doubt be wringing his hands with delight if cricket followers had to hand money his way every time they wanted to report on cricket to their friends, family or other people via the internet.
Why do the TMS crew feel threatened by the presence and activities of the Sofa? It’s like J.K. Rowling saying she feels threatened by Yates’ first venture into fiction, Sir Patrick Stewart saying that he feels threatened by Yates donning the make up and Star Trek uniform or Carl Froch saying he’s bricking it because Yates has taken up boxing.
The excellent Patrick Kidd has blogged about this as has Jarrod Kimber, Donning The Whites With Grace, The Armchair Selector and others (comment with links and I’ll update this post). Cricket has had a pretty poor time of things recently what with KPGate, the USACA meltdown, Radio Sport New Zealand not covering the Black Caps’ tour of Sri Lanka and leaving New Zealand with no coverage at all of that tour, and players suing the organisers of a Canadian T20 match. We don’t need another establishment looking down on something they see as “unofficial” moment.
That won’t help the game, it won’t help spread the gospel about the game. Football is mired in racism and referee issues at the moment – an ideal time for cricket to come to the party and up its positive image.
Cricket is a wide church. Nobody “owns” cricket, even if the BCCI think they do. The TMS crew should remember that they are truly privileged – they are paid to watch and report on the game millions of us around the world love. When the privileged start moaning they invariably drum up more support for those they are moaning about. Yates is willing to bet that a lot more people know about the Sofa now than at this time last week. Which probably puts even more of a dent in the chances of Yates appearing on the Sofa.
Come on guys, please get together, have a beverage of some sort and let it drop amicably. Let’s all spread the word as colleagues, collaborators and not adversarial competitors.
And best wishes to CMJ from Don’t Chase The Wide Ones. He’s been unwell for a while now. His book “Testing Times” about the England tour of the West Indies in 1973/4 is enjoyable reading.
The BBC have come to an agreement with the BCCI which allows the TMS crew to broadcast from the ground but have not yet detailed how much Licence Fee payers’ money or other assurances have been handed over to the BCCI. That information is now the subject of a Freedom of Information request. Yates feels most strongly that the correct response to the BCCI’s demand for more money is “Get stuffed Numbnuts!”.