Cricket fans of a certain age grew up in the age of regular cricket on BBC tv, but will still have tuned in to TMS to listen whilst watching with the sound turned down. With the advent of Sky in the early 1990’s TMS gradually became the sole diet for some of the species.
A fixture of TMS’s golden age post-Arlott was the super gruff, Yorkshire grunts from the bluntest of blunt speakers from the capital of Bluntshire – Frederick Sewards Trueman, a man who spoke with the experience of 307 test wickets, all taken at lightening pace whilst puffing on a briar of St Bruno. And boy, did he speak… A man whose observations (“Botham can’t bowl“) eventually grated too much on a generation who had never seen him play and, though we knew he had been a legend on the field, off it he had become a bore. His expert analysis invariably began and ended with ‘I don’t know what’s going on out there.’ It almost became a catchphrase.
However, I was always a fan. The more outspoken the better, for in an age when, Atherton-excepted, the England team were rubbish, hearing how high the Fred-o-meter would go was one of the few compensations. He was ousted from the airwaves before his death six years ago. One hopes he is playing rather than talking up in heaven (if you believe in that sort of thing).
It is mistakenly thought by some that Sir Geoffrey Boycott took over his mantle of the ‘it were better in my day’ grizzled old pro. Wrong. Yes, there is no-one straighter than Geoffrey who tells it straighter than his straightest of straight bats, but he is always fair. Geoffrey can be a little cruel, he can be heard chuckling at hapless run outs (pot, kettle, black) and moronic shot selection with groans at poor bowling (‘that was shoddy creekit’). He can often be heard saying that something or someone is roobish. But he only says it when it is.
If you doubt me, you have not been listening carefully enough to Fiery (a nickname also bestowed on Trueman). He has immense enthusiasm for the game. He absolutely loves cricket. It is his very lifeblood. I think he has been leant on, by various producers and editors. He has listened to advice. He has been careful not to fall into the traps that would have turned him into a latter-day Trueman. Of course, he thinks it were better in his day, but listen to him talk about Tendulkar, Dravid, Ponting, Pollock, Donald, Warne and McGrath. He rates them as highly as any players he played with and against. He claims to love KP, despite all his unorthodoxy, and even cricket’s surly young nephew, Twenty20.
Yet, there is a successor to Trueman’s ‘I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on-out-there’ crown. Though Manchester-born, he is as Yorkie as Fred, illy, Boycs, Closey, Clegg, Compo and Foggy. He is, of course, Michael Vaughan, the grumpiest 37-year-old-man in cricket.
Have you been listening to the latest four days of embarrassment for the current team? “Absolutely no excuse”, “Why did Stuart Broad play?”, “Did not attack enough”, “Really disappointing”, “You just can’t do that”, “You have to say that’s a poor shot”, “Oh NO!” (after KP’s dismissal this morning) , “The top six have failed again”, “This is ridiculous. We get brought up on this kind of bowling.” “Miles below par”, “embarrassing.”
During England’s pathetic response to the Sri Lankan first innings on Tuesday, Michael Vaughan just kept repeating ‘there are no magic balls’ implying that their poor display a few weeks ago against Pakistan could be explained by the mysteries of their spinners and pitch conditions. Here, there were no excuses and a clearly exasperated Vaughan gave a masterclass in chuntering.
If you think I’m being unfair, let me say that I am not complaining. I’m merely telling it like it is! I’ve rated Vaughan’s commentary, insights and observations since his first day in the box, and I’ve had the pleasure of following his playing career, being there at Trent Bridge when he scored 197 in a day against India (the same test in which he clean bowled some chap called Tendulkar). The memories of his performances in the 2002-03 Ashes and his captaincy in the magical 2005 series will live with me forever.
But… wind forward 20 years and there will be a whole new set of listeners who may find themselves thinking ‘who does this grumpy old Yorkshireman think he is…?’