I am very fortunate to have enjoyed a lifetime in cricket
This is my 38th season in the professional game.
Cricket continues to evolve – perhaps not quite as radically as some would have us believe – and so does the way in which the game is reported and analysed. The digital age and social networking has transformed every cricket lover’s life, hence the need for me to embrace technology and offer this website for your enjoyment.
Here you will find links to much of my work on BBC Radio’s Test Match Special – celebrity interviews, news features and, of course, my end-of-the-day review with Geoffrey Boycott, which is available as a podcast. And talking of Geoffrey, due to popular demand we have further dates for our highly popular theatre evenings during 2014 – you can find details of those, and my theatre events with Graeme Swann, Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar and Phil Tufnell on my Shop page.
Cricket: A Modern Anthology was published on July 4th. This is an immense collection of the best writing about the game starting with the infamous Bodyline Tour of 1932/33. More information on this and my other books can once again be found on this website.
As always I am indebted to my wife Emma for her support and patience, especially when I am away on England’s travels. Being married to a cricket correspondent cannot be easy.
Photos and articles from my daily cricketing experiences
It was a remarkable summer, dominated as much by events off field as on it. England are now firmly in one-day mode which, as their defeat to India in the ODI series showed, they have a lot of work to do. They travel to Sri Lanka for a 7 match series in November as part of their preparation for the World Cup in February. Me? I’m turning my attention to Equestrianism as I endeavour to prepare myself for the Rio Olympics.
August 14th 2014
When the Premier League season kicks off this weekend, we can be sure that all eyes will be on Manchester United. They entertain Swansea and their new manager Louis van Gaal faces a massive challenge to restore the faith at Old Trafford.
Phil Neville, the former England and Manchester United defender joined me on Test Match Special last week to reflect on his passion for cricket (he was captain of England Under 15’s) and also on the nightmare of last season. Neville was first team coach, working in partnership with his friend David Moyes who was sacked less than ten months after taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson after what Neville described as a disaster and a complete failure.
With that brutal analysis came the acknowledgement that Moyes had an impossible task. United had won the League by the small matter of 12 points the previous season but change was needed and after 27 years of the same routines under one of the most successful managers of all time, this came at a heavy price which cost Moyes and Neville their jobs.
Neville believes that van Gaal will have an easier time this season because he is not Ferguson’s direct replacement so will not be under the same scrutiny. Rather than being weighed down by the burden of expectation that buried Moyes, the Dutchman’s is a lower starting point. With a striking similarity to the challenges facing the England cricket team, this season at Old Trafford is all about careful rebuilding and although Manchester United’s supporters will be hoping for immediate signs of improvement, they need to accept that this will probably take time. Also in van Gaal’s favour is the fact that his team will not be involved in any European football. Ironically, United’s failure to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1989 was high on Moyes’ charge sheet but it does now afford his successor some breathing space in a typically crammed schedule.
As for Neville, he is looking forward to picking up his cricket bat again, and replacing Alan Hansen on the Match of the Day sofa alongside another cricket-loving footballer, Gary Lineker. Neville’s early sorties at the microphone in the World Cup met with heavy criticism but I have little doubt that his candour and striking work ethic will make him an instant hit on football’s favourite television programme, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
August 7th 2014
Cricket’s commemoration last week of the outbreak of the First World War proved to be a stark and moving reminder of the impact the deadly conflict had on every aspect of life. A round of county championship matches was in full flow when war was declared on August 4th, 1914 and when a number of players chose to sign up immediately rather than complete the games, public opinion was quickly divided over the morality of staging cricket matches in wartime. The most famous cricketer of the time, the legendary batsman Jack Hobbs, caused outcry in some quarters when he signed to play in the Bradford League in 1915. His war effort was a clerical job in a munitions factory, but it was successfully argued that were Hobbs sent to the Front and killed, it would have a massively damaging impact on British morale.
Four England cricketers died in the War, alongside 289 first class cricketers including Hampshire’s fast bowler, Arthur Jacks who was killed with his brother on the same day. Arthur Collins was an early casualty at Ypres. His 628 not out in a house match at Clifton College in 1899 remains the highest score ever recorded in a genuine match.
Probably the best known fatality was Percy Jeeves, a talented first class cricketer for Warwickshire, whose name caught the eye of a young writer, PG Wodehouse, at Cheltenham in 1913. Thus Jeeves, the unflappable valet was born that day while Jeeves, the soldier, died three years later in the Battle of the Somme.
Frank Chester scored a century for Worcestershire aged only 17 but lost an arm while fighting in Salonika. He found solace in umpiring and quickly became regarded as the finest in the world while Harry Lee lay in No Man’s Land for three days at Neuve Chapelle. A miraculous recovery left him with a pronounced limp despite which he returned to score double centuries for Middlesex – he was not allowed a runner – and he even won a Test cap.
The Australian wicketkeeper, Bert Oldfield, somehow survived an explosion that killed his three fellow stretcher-bearers and their patient. A metal plate was inserted at the front of his head, so when he was struck there by Harold Larwood in the Bodyline series of 1932/33 the incident almost sparked a riot.
Such bravery and such selfless sacrifice. How all of us in modern sport could learn from their example.
July 31st 2014
Am I alone in being left confused by a recent report by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which claimed that not enough women are taking part in sport? Worryingly, the cross-party committee suggested there are now long-term implications for health and social care.
This report coincided with my first visit to the headquarters of the British Equestrian Federation in Kenilworth in my new guise as BBC Radio Equestrian commentator. To sporting bodies, participation numbers mean cash from Sport England, which is threatening to cut it’s funding of ‘lacklustre’ governing bodies in favour of those that actively boost female participation. No surprise then, that the BEF has launched a new social network campaign to raise awareness of riding, but also to make the point that riding is, in fact, a sport. What else can explain its survey that revealed one million horses in the UK but only 200,000 riders, other than the fact that 800,000 people – the majority of them women, I suspect – do not realise that when they are setting off for a hack, they are officially taking part in sport.
That’s one reason to wonder if this report really stacks up. Surely the profile of women’s sport has never been higher with the Commonwealth Games coming hard on the heels of London 2012. Joanna Rowsell, Francesca Jones, Jodie Stimpson and Zoe Smith are all young women at the top of their respective games and ideal role models for others to get into sport.
Furthermore, England’s Women Cricketers take on India in a series broadcast live on BBC Radio, with our women now fully paid professionals and having just announced a lucrative sponsorship deal that is entirely separate from their male counterparts. England’s Women football team have enjoyed a 100% start to their World Cup qualifying campaign, and the Women’s Rugby Union World Cup is underway in France, promising to be the biggest ever and broadcast on Sky TV.
And while the DCMS report suggests that girls and women are put off sport by, amongst other things, gratuitous derogatory remarks by TV commentators and a lack of respect shown to female coaches (Andy Murray is set to keep Amelie Mauresmo as his tennis coach) their own official figures show that 500,000 more women are participating now than in 2010. So doesn’t this all add up to a good news story, demonstrating just how far women’s sport has come? Or am I missing something?
July 24th 2014
Who would want to be the captain of the England cricket team? The scrutiny on one of the most prestigious roles within British sport has reached unprecedented levels this summer with, for the first time, social media adding greatly to the debate about the direction of English cricket, and the suitability of Alastair Cook to remain at the helm.
The role of the England cricket captain is more far reaching than in any other sport. The recent World Cup football campaign was nothing short of disastrous, but Steven Gerrard is not held responsible for that. It is the manager that carries the can. The England rugby captain is rather more hands on when it comes to tactical decisions on the field, and can be a truly inspirational figure such as Martin Johnson who led England to win the 2003 World Cup. But even that pales into insignificance when compared to the man in whites who runs the game for up to six hours per day, is responsible for every bowling change and minute alteration to the field – and then has to go out to bat.
The best example of the relationship between the cricket captain and the team coach was provided by Bob Woolmer who, when coach of South Africa, attempted to communicate with his on-field captain, Hansie Cronje, via an earpiece. The moment the authorities got wind of this, it was condemned as unethical and banned immediately. The captain must do his job alone.
And how the pressure on him has grown. The debate surrounding Alastair Cook’s future has been played out much more vigorously than ever before. Gone are the days when such matters were the source of a good argument in the village pub; now it is played out all over social media where cricket fans express their opinions both freely and without reservation while high profile former players such as the Australian Shane Warne take to national newspapers to present their critical analysis.
All of this is worse when the captain is out of form. His team mates are able to focus entirely on their own games, free from the burden of decision making. But when England find themselves in a losing streak and the captain can’t buy a run for love nor money, he has nowhere to hide. Despite the honour and the prestige the position brings, being England cricket captain must sometimes make you feel like the loneliest man in the world.
July 17th 2014
We have enjoyed some spectacular summers of sport in recent years. The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics will take some beating. Last year, England retained the Ashes, Justin Rose won the US Open Golf and the highlight had to be Andy Murray making history at Wimbledon.
But, so far, 2014 has been a major let down for British Sport. The less said about England’s effort in the World Cup, the better, Murray was thrashed in the quarter final, Chris Froome crashed out of the Tour de France after such a stunningly choreographed Grand Depart in Yorkshire, and England’s cricketers were beaten by Sri Lanka for the first time at home.
We still have the Commonwealth Games to look forward to in Glasgow, but if British sport is looking for redemption, it might well come on the greens of Royal Liverpool in Hoylake where the 143rd Open Championship is taking place this week. The American Phil Mickelson is the defending champion, and this is the first Major that Tiger Woods will have played since major back surgery. He showed his intentions by arriving at Hoylake five days early, just as he did when he won there in 2006, but if it is not to be Mickelson or Woods, what are the prospects of one of our own golfers lifting the nation’s flagging spirits?
Many will consider that Justin Rose starts as our best hope, and he will be all too aware that is has been 22 years since an Englishman (Nick Faldo) won the Open Championship, and 45 years since Tony Jacklin did so on home soil. Since bursting onto the scene as a young amateur, Rose’s Open track record is disappointing, but he won on the PGA tour a fortnight ago, so his confidence is high. If not Rose, then what about Rory McIlroy who won the PGA Championship the week after calling off his engagement to the tennis star, Caroline Wozniacki? He is a power player, who hammered a 436-yard drive at the Scottish Open last week, but where his inconsistency was highlighted by his first round 64, and his second round 78.
I will be cheering on Lee Westwood, a cricket lover who I have interviewed on Test Match Special. Westwood missed the cut at the Scottish Open last week, but he did finish 2nd in the Open four years ago, while Ian Poulter could win if he could only reproduce his Ryder Cup form.
July 9th 2014
A Test series between England and India has become one of the most eagerly anticipated battles in international cricket. Long gone are the days when India’s cricketers were viewed with mild curiosity, and tended to succumb meekly to bowling that was even slightly hostile. Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev changed all that, while Bishen Bedi’s beguiling left arm spin and bright turbans remains for me the best illustration of Indian cricket – disarming charisma masking magical skill.
The modern Indian cricketer is very different to Bishen. This is now the sport of superstars who are adored every bit as much as actors and pop icons. The rewards for the top players are immense, while despite allegations of corruption against him, the President of the Indian Board was recently elected as the first chairman of the International Cricket Council. Make no mistake; India is cricket’s powerhouse.
But like England, India are struggling. They have not won a Test match overseas for three years and last time they were in England an aloof, uninterested-looking team was despatched 4-0. Worse still, when England toured India 18 months ago they did the unthinkable by coming back from 1-0 down to win the series 2-1.
Duncan Fletcher, the coach widely credited for masterminding England’s long-awaited Ashes success in 2005, returns as India’s coach determined to make amends for his team’s disastrous showing four years ago. Only three of his players have appeared in Tests in England before, making this one of the least experienced squads to tour here. But this is the chance Fletcher has been waiting for. For years his hands were hopelessly tied by the presence of truly legendary figures such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. The coach’s position was virtually ineffectual. But with their retirements that has all changed, and now surrounded by talented and ambitious young men such as Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and the dashing Shikhar Dhawan, Fletcher can finally mould the team in his own fashion.
Alastair Cook was the captain of the first England team to win in India for 26 years, and whose current crisis graphically reflects sport’s wheel of fortune. He faced a similar predicament in 2010 when he could not buy a run and was saved by a painstaking century in the last match of the summer. But he was not distracted by the captaincy then. Now England’s current run of 6 defeats in 7 Tests adds greatly to the pressure on his shoulders.
July 3rd 2014
I might have an unusual take on the World Cup biting incident by Luis Suarez, but I am going to share it with you anyway. Make no mistake, the Uruguay striker’s actions were absolutely disgraceful and his explanation that he simply lost his balance and fell onto his opponent is nothing short of risible. The worldwide condemnation was instant and deserved while, at the same time, FIFA was challenged to come up with a suitable punishment.
In banning Suarez from 9 Uruguay matches and from all football-related activity for four months, FIFA discharged its duty both admirably and fairly. All too often high profile sportsmen get away with poor behaviour and in biting an opponent – which is just about as bad as it gets – Suarez is a repeat offender.
So what possessed the victim, the Italian Giorgio Chiellini, to criticize FIFA for imposing a punishment that he described as “too excessive?” Surely all footballers need protection from such on-field thuggery, but especially those who make a living from the sport. In criticizing FIFA as he did, I believe Chiellini did football a disservice.
It would not be a World Cup without a measure of controversy and this tournament has been full of excitement, too. It is impossible ever to tire of the Argentinean genius, Lionel Messi while, for pressure, it is difficult to beat the Brazilian striker, Neymar, who carried the hopes of his football-crazy country on his shoulders when he had to score from the deciding fifth penalty in their shoot-out with Chile.
But to be regarded as a classic World Cup, there must romance, too. The goal of the World Cup so far probably goes to the lesser-known talent of Columbia’s James Rodriguez while Greece and Costa Rica have demonstrated that you do not need a domestic league bursting with stellar names in order to succeed at international level. It will be fascinating to see what impact America’s qualification for the last 16 has on the popularity of football in the States, while closer to home, the inquests into the failures by England, Spain, Italy and Portugal will already be underway.
The World Cup has also been a triumph for Brazil, and for Rio de Janeiro in particular. Faced in advance with the usual doubts about its preparedness, Rio has confounded its doubters and returning journalists I have spoken to are in no doubt that the 2016 Olympics there will be spectacular.
June 27th 2014
As if it is not enough that the administration of FIFA, the international governing body of football, is currently facing serious allegations of corruption and malpractice, the headlines this week are likely to be made by FIFA’s cricketing equivalent, the ICC.
At a meeting in Melbourne, the Test-playing countries will accept radical changes to the way that cricket is run, with India, England and Australia setting themselves up as the senior, all powerful members of a new Executive Committee that will govern the game, and make the most money from it. Most controversial of all is that the man who will be proposed as the first chairman, and who therefore will effectively run world cricket, is the President of the Indian Board (BCCI) Narayanaswami Srinivasan, who denies the allegations of corruption he faces, but who recently stepped down from his position at the BCCI under the instruction of the Indian Supreme Court.
It seems astonishing that Mr Srinivasan should have any involvement with the administration of the ICC under the current circumstances, or that its members should meekly accept his nomination this week. It illustrates the power that India, which generates 70% of the game’s income, holds over the others; all of whom need to play against India in order to benefit from the enormous sums generated by television.
Cricket’s administrators need only to look over their shoulders at the maelstrom of allegations against their football counterparts, including the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, to appreciate what dangerous territory they are dragging cricket into. Sponsors are becoming increasingly agitated about the manner in which Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup with one, Adidas, expressing its concern about the “negative tenor of the public debate, which is neither good for football, for FIFA or its partners.”
Blatter is set to stand for re-election next year and unless he resigns in the meantime, FIFA will continue to stave off the allegations that are damaging its reputation. But the ICC still has time to take a step back. The new structure allows only India, England and Australia to nominate one of their own as chairman, with the new Executive Committee responsible for dealing with corruption within the game. So why not put either the Englishman or the Australian in to bat first and allow Srinivasan time to clear his name? Because common sense rarely features in the often murky world of sports administration, that’s why.
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A selection of photos and audio from the TMS archive
CLASSIC TMS AUDIO
A classic View: Hugh Cornwell – lead singer of the Stranglers
Manchester United and England’s Gary Neville reflects brilliantly on the impact cricket has made on his life:
Strictly Come Dancing judge, Len Goodman: a great story-teller
The legendary broadcaster/DJ Annie Nightingale. What a character!
Downton Abbey’s Mr Carson, and Hampstead CC Chairman, Jim Carter
Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, on his 18th birthday
Days after the 2011 riots I interview the Prime Minister David Cameron at the Oval
Leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband meets his childhood hero
One of my favourites – chatting to Elton John on his piano stool
Eric Clapton brightens up a rainy morning at Lord’s with his stories about Ian Botham
Rugby legend Gareth Edwards is my entertaining guest at Cardiff
England are moments away from winning the Ashes in 2005, and Hugh Grant pops in for tea
Great fun with Aussie comedian Adam Hills
Lesley Garrett is quickly into full flow at Lord’s
The interview everyone still talks about: pop star Lily Allen
Two years later, Lily returns for tea with a husband, a cake and a bump
Mark Webber takes us into the cockpit of his F1 racing car
A perfect guest for lunch at Cardiff – Max Boyce
Lunch with the ageless Nicholas Parsons
A lovely session with Richie Benaud as he bows out of British TV
Tea with England football coach Roy Hodgson
The match referee’s cousin pays a visit to Lord’s: Russell Crowe
John (Boycie) Challis takes an extended View from the Boundary at Edgbaston
My favourite piece of commentary. Kerry O’ Keeffe and I watch Steve Waugh’s 100 in Sydney 2003
Keane’s Tom Chaplin sings a beautiful solo at Old Trafford
To listen to my ‘Desert Island Discs’ click here
I have a great deal of experience in hosting events
I have a great deal of experience in hosting corporate events, such as the two-day conference of the NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit to mark its tenth anniversary of safeguarding children in sport, and the England and Wales Cricket Board’s annual OSCAs at Lord’s.
I am also a regular on the after dinner circuit to speak at league and cricket club annual dinners and presentation evenings.
For more information or to book, please use the contact form.
John Latham – Henley in Arden CC
Associated organisations and supporters
My events and books
These theatre evenings have proved to be a great success. So far we have played to sell-out audiences at The Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Ave, London. Nottingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Harrogate, Leicester, Birmingham and Liverpool, and we have the following dates booked for 2014. I am hopeful that others will be added to the list:
Monday Sept 22nd: Southampton Mayflower
Thurs Sept 25th: York Barbican
“Great night at the City Hall with Aggers and Boycs on sparkling form. Real warmth, genuine chemistry and friendship evident on stage…”
“Fabulous evening. Insights, wisdom and wonderful humour. Not laughed so much in ages. Thank you all.”
Here’s an evening not to missed. Straight from the England dressing room and onto the stage, Graeme Swann is one of modern cricket’s great characters with many a tale to tell. The venue is the majestic Nottingham Theatre Royal on July 3rd.
Sunil Gavaskar is one of the true legends of the game. A diminutive opening batsman, ‘Sunny’ did battle with the fastest bowlers of his time from Lillee and Thomson to the fearsome West Indian pace attack of the 1980′s. Always opinionated, Sunil will give a fascinating insight into the game and not least the impact of the Indian Premier League. The venue is Leicester’s de Montfort Hall and this is likely to be a one-off event.
Phil Tufnell and I are planning more theatre evenings in 2014. I will post details here.
“Cracking evening with Aggers and Tuffers at Windsor theatre tonight. Very, very entertaining.”
“Just seen the next big comedy double act, Aggers and Tuffers: brilliant evening thank you!”
In this wide-ranging and beautifully-produced anthology, I have chosen a wide variety of writings on the sport that has consumed my life, from the 1932/33 Ashes (Bodyline) series right up to the present day. In a series of carefully considered, thematically organised reflections, I examine the importance of their contribution to our understanding and appreciation of cricket. With input from several eminent cricketing historians, including the librarian at Lord’s, the book contains a fascinating range of material, from renowned classics to books that have hardly seen the light of day in the United Kingdom (e.g. The Hanse Cronje Story by Garth King); from overseas fiction to modern day autobiographies (Marcus Trescothick, Simon Hughes, Mike Brearley etc.) that have attained classic status. With 75 seminal cricket images, original line drawings and a comprehensive index, this book is a must-have for any self-respecting cricket fan.
For more information or to buy, CLICK HERE
Thanks Johnners is a warm tribute to my mentor Brian Johnston and his time at the helm of Test Match Special.
The on-air incident, in which my comment on Ian Botham’s attempt to avoid stepping on his stumps – “He just couldn’t quite get his leg over” provoking prolonged fits of giggles – most notably from Johnners – has been voted the greatest piece of sporting commentary ever. The friendship between myself and Brian became immortalised through that broadcasting classic, but there was a deeper bond between us, as this book reveals.
For more information and to buy, CLICK HERE
This is in effect my personal diary of my experiences in Australia in 2010/2011 – when England finally won the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 24 years. With additional contributions from the best BBC cricket bloggers and the resident TMS statistician, Aggers’ Ashes is the only companion you will need to relive those wonderful days when history was made Down Under.
For more information and to buy, CLICK HERE
The world of cricket has seen many ups and downs since my autobiography was first published back in 1997. This substantially updated edition of the book features my thoughts on the Cronje bribery scandal; the loss of the BBC televised coverage to Channel 4; England’s failures at the 1999 World Cup, in South Africa and against the Australians in 2001; and their successes against the West Indies and Pakistan. This book takes the reader on an odyssey around the cricketing world.
For more information and to buy, CLICK HERE
An honest but entertaining account of a county cricketer’s life on the road.
For more information and to buy, CLICK HERE
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