@Phil_Wisden 5 minute read
Launching the new wisden.com series ‘Things we miss’, Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker recalls the shaky old golden age of BBC TV coverage.
We miss Tony Lewis. We miss the eyebrows of Tony Lewis. The sprightly, probing, Robin Day-like, ‘If I may say so’ eyebrows of Tony Lewis. Of Tony Lewis, we miss the asides and the wryness. We miss Tony’s slow, drawn exhalations when a thick edge runs down to third-man, “…and it always goes for fourrrrr…” We miss the owlishness. The blazer. The glint, the shoulder lean, the rectitude. The resemblance to the bloke out of the Addams Family. We miss him, and his tribe, and all that they stood for.
We miss going to Towcester for the 3:55 when Gooch is on 299. We miss nasal Jack Bannister and Asif Iqbal, and their proto-stabs at bantership, stuck-in-a-lift laughter, men wrestling their ideas and each other, yet hitched to the code, to the ethics of the mic, to the Beeb, to The Broadcaster: the house of honour.
We miss the age of deference. We miss no more than half a dozen cameras at any one ground. Of cameras at one end, always behind the keeper when Holding’s running in from the far end. We miss the silence. The drift. Of time elapsing, unfilled by noise, undrenched by colour.
We miss white graphics floating about the screen, conveying the necessaries only. We miss provincial insurance companies working out of Guildford, and their white stained logos on the outfield. Whiteness: white helmets, white kits (every match), white sightscreens and off-white suits, and the shared coverage with Jimmy White v Nigel Bond in the UK semis.
We miss one-off one-dayers. Knockouts in the shires. Mike Garnham and John Childs’ last-wicket stand, Wasim spangling Surrey, Asif Din’s squiggly hundred, Daffy’s new ball, Viv’s last day.
We miss cameras in the dressing rooms of late-Nineties England teams, pyrrhic in victory, its inhabitants cautious, scoping the walls for ghosts and bugs, and The Gaffer at the heart of it, shoulders back, neck straight, going round the room, shaking hands with each and every. Cool Britannia.
We miss the sublime, pre-Lewis emptiness of the sportless, Kilroy-occupied TV vacuum before 10:50am with no recourse to 24-hour clip cycles. We miss going to the news at the top of the hour, and wondering what arrows have been slung in the interregnum, and returning to the action, and nothing having changed. We miss Jim Laker saying ‘superlative’ like he’s bent-double over the counter at Boots spluttering into his sleeve.
We miss having it on in the background at our gran’s. We miss sudden unifying moments, non-fans turning face, bandwagons jumped, national conversations. We miss an alien from another planet saying ‘Morning, everyone’ and sensing that ‘everyone’ meant exactly that. That’s what we miss. And we miss getting it for free.