Of the world’s most famous sports broadcasters, only one could go on a critically acclaimed tour talking about nearly half a century behind the microphone and not focus on what happened on the field.
That man is Henry Blofeld, known fondly as Blowers to listeners of Test Match Special who treasure his old Etonian voice and fascination with the seemingly superfluous details that bring test cricket to life.
Along with long-time TMS producer Peter Baxter, Blowers is bringing the show Memories of Test Match Special to Dartford’s Orchard Theatre and Maidstone’s Hazlitt this month.
Blowers, 78, was quick to say: “It’s not a cricket show, that’s the first and foremost thing.
“You won’t hear anything about cricket per se, you won’t hear about famous players and all the rest, you will hear about cock-ups in the commentary box.”
He added: “It is comedy and satire.”
Blowers has been a regular on TMS for 43 years and Peter was a producer for 34, so you can imagine there is plenty of material to draw on.
Blowers said: “A lot of very, very funny things have happened – with people coming into the box and all in the periphery.”
While people tune in to Test Match Special to keep up with the scores, many more do so simply because of the camaraderie, whimsy and sense of fun of the commentators.
The theatre shows have the same appeal. The pair perform around 150 times a year around the world and just played a solid month in Edinburgh to full houses and rave reviews.
Blowers said: “I love commentating, I enjoy it as much as I have ever done but I enjoy the stage certainly as much.
“The stage and the commentary box aren’t very far apart. They are both lovely. A lot of people say they are very different, I don’t actually find them so.”
From personal experience, I can appreciate that when Blowers says his show is lady-friendly that it really is – my girlfriend won’t watch a moment of cricket on the television but is more than happy to listen to TMS on the radio.
Clearly pleased with what must be a familiar revelation, Blowers said: “What you’re saying there is absolutely right and good on her, because that is absolutely what we would like.”
He added: “It’s the same audience as TMS in many ways because TMS has made its name very much through its non-cricketing content as through its cricketing content, which seems a paradox.”
Part of what makes Blowers so loved by listeners is his delight in talking about pigeons, buses, cranes or whatever catches the eye near the cricket field.
He said: “You are talking about what is happening in front of you and pigeons are there, helicopters are there, scenery is there, the clouds are there, the stands are there – you have got to paint a composite picture, I believe.”
Of course, as well as all the cranes and pigeons, Blowers has seen more than a few of test cricket’s greatest moments from the booth.
“I have no idea what the greatest moment I have seen is,” he said. “I must have watched getting on for 600 or 700 test matches, but I have seen some fabulous moments, good lord.
“I suppose that extraordinary test at Leeds in 1981 was high on the list – Ian Botham and Bob Willis when England won that by 18 runs or whatever it was.”
As far as Kent’s greatest players go, two wicketkeepers feature highly for Blowers.
He said: “Alan Knott was the greatest wicketkeeper I ever saw.
“Alan Knott and Godfrey Evans were my great two men of Kent or Kentish men or whatever they were. They were wicketkeepers and I was a wicketkeeper too.
“I used to love coming down to Canterbury in the old days, the St Lawrence ground is lovely. I was at a great game at Maidstone on Saturday at Mote Park and I think it is almost a crime that Kent don’t still play there.”
Henry Blofeld and Peter Baxter’s Memories of Test Match Special is at The Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone, on Thursday, September 11, and the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, on Monday, September 29.
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