Living with TMS
Cricket : New columnist, 'The Don', talks us through what Test Match Special means to him.
It’s not often that something that made you cry laughing has the same effect second time around. Or third or fourth, for that matter. But if, like me, you heard the famous “leg over” episode on Test Match Special live in August 1991, it will probably have had the same effect every time you have heard it repeated. Brian Johnston had a commentary style that could have rendered the shipping forecast “don’t miss” material, so his attempt to summarise the day’s play between England and the West Indies whilst corpsing in a high pitched voice is iconic listening.
This clip inevitably took centre stage in the BBC’s excellent recent one hour review to celebrate 60 years of TMS. The programme included many anecdotes from listeners for whom TMS had played a special part in their lives.
For me, it would be no exaggeration to say the programme shaped my childhood in the 70’s. The transistor radio under the pillow at boarding school was a constant friend when homesickness set in, be it through the night for a test match down under, or on a weekday afternoon when there were hours to fill because games had been cancelled.
In the summer holidays, however, it became an almost daily companion. Our family were fortunate to have a holiday home in Salcombe, Devon where my brother, sister and I would spend the entire summer holidays with our mother, our father joining us for long periods when work allowed. My brother and I would spend the day playing cricket on the beach when the tide was out, or in our small garden when there was no beach. When there was a test match on, however, the routine changed.
The mornings seemed to drag interminably until 11.25 (how late does that seem now ?) when Peter West would introduce the prospect of five glorious days - trouble was, we were told we needed to “get outside and get some air” so TV watching was heavily restricted. A compromise with our mother was soon reached - play outside and listen to the cricket on the radio instead. Thus hours of commentary were absorbed, the sudden excitement of a fallen wicket leading us to run inside and catch the replay. The best of all worlds - cricket heaven for six weeks.
Only last week, TMS once more revealed a canny knack of bringing those happy memories to the fore. Morne Morkel was in the middle of a typically high class spell of fast bowling. The commentator, possibly Ed Smith, (his father taught me cricket at school!) made mention of the fact that the eccentric start to Morkel’s run up (he walks round in a circle before running in) was a throwback to his childhood and learning to bowl in his small back garden, where he would run round in a circle to build up speed, his garden not being long enough for a full run up. I immediately saw my brother, right arm over with a large kink in his run up around our small flower bed in the garden in Salcombe. (He went on to play cricket to a decent standard, good fast medium bowler, with the inevitable kink in his run up!).
This week, I am taking the family on holiday…to Salcombe. Two grown up sons and three young daughters, ideal for a competitive game of beach cricket. Two test matches v West Indies while we are there. Embarrassing commentary of my own to accompany dreadful impersonations of Bob Willis and Tony Greig bowling. Hours of professional commentary courtesy of TMS to while away the hours. Timeless bliss.
*lead image courtesy of Pitchcare