New man at the helm
This week marked the retirement of Peter Baxter, the long-serving producer of Test Match Special.
He has been replaced by Adam Mountford, who makes the step up after five years as Peter's number two.
We asked Adam about his love of cricket and his plans for the programme. Here's what he had to say:
Q. You have now taken over as Test Match Special producer, how excited are you at being given the opportunity?
I feel honoured and privileged to have been given this chance. It is a programme that I have loved since the age of nine and I still can't really believe I am going to have the opportunity to join such a talented team of people.
Q. Peter Baxter will be a hard act to follow after 34 years - how would you sum up his contribution to the programme?
I was only one when Peter first became the producer of Test Match Special and it is a remarkable achievement for him to have brought the programme through to its half-century. I particularly admire Peter's achievements in making it possible to broadcast cricket all over the World. When he first toured some countries getting a single phone line was a miracle at times so how he managed to broadcast whole Test matches is amazing. I wish Peter all the best in his retirement - but I hope he keeps his phone on as I will be asking lots of questions!
Q. When did you first become aware of Test Match Special?
My first memories of TMS are listening at the age of nine to Henry Blofeld describing the end of the 1981 Headingley Test … "Bright's bowled , the middle stump's out of the ground, England have won". I quickly became a huge fan of the programme especially enjoying coverage of overseas tours. I remember in the days before I had an alarm clock radio I would keep the radio on all night listening to an annoying beeping noise just so that I wouldn't miss a ball when the TMS commentary started. I particularly recall the 1983/1984 Pakistan series listening to TMS favourite Vic Marks battling with three successive half-centuries. I remember being late for school because I was listening to the end of the Lahore Test match as England almost pulled off an amazing victory thanks to five wickets from Norman Cowans.
Q. How would you define the programme's appeal?
TMS is a unique radio programme and it is very difficult to explain why. What I love is the mix between humour, thrilling commentary on big moments and strong journalism when required. Like a game of cricket itself the programme ebbs and flows with conversation going to places you would never imagine possible. There is also an incredibly talented group of broadcasters who each offer something different. I am so excited to now have the chance to work with the team.
Q. How do you see the programme evolving over the next few years?
Test Match Special has evolved over its 50-year history and of course it will continue to do so. But if you are worrying that a new producer means massive changes let me reassure you I am not planning a revolution! I have been a huge fan of the programme since the age of nine and like Peter Baxter has done for more than 30 years I will fight to preserve all that is great about TMS.
The programme has always embraced new technology and I want to develop this. Anyone who has pressed the red button on digital television or listened online will have seen how impressive it is to be able to listen to brilliant TMS commentary alongside up to the second scorecards, wagon wheels and other information. We are investigating ways to develop this service more.
The genial tone of TMS is the vital part of the programme but it shouldn't be forgotten that it does not shy away from strong journalism when required. Test Match Special was honoured at the last Sony Radio Awards for its coverage of "Oval Gate" and the Jonathan Agnew and Geoffrey Boycott TMS podcast often sets the agenda on a range of issues.
Of course, the most important people on the programme are the voices you love and I am fortunate to be inheriting an extremely talented team. There is simply no need for massive changes - all you'll hear is a light sprinkling of a couple of new voices over the next few months with the likes of Ashley Giles and Dominic Cork joining us for the forthcoming NatWest one-day series, whilst Alison Mitchell and Phil Tufnell will be part of the team at next week's Twenty20 internationals.
Q. What is your first cricketing memory?
The 1981 Ashes series was what got me hooked on cricket. The only problem was that I had decided to support Australia! My older brother was backing England and obviously I couldn't do what he did so I went for Kim Hughes and the Aussies. Until one afternoon in Leeds it looked like I had made the right decision until Sir Ian turned the series on its head. I was one of the few English kids upset that Bob Willis took his 8-43 to win the match.
Did you play the game at school or for a club?
Unfortunately, my school didn't have a cricket pitch so I grew up mainly playing indoor cricket. However, I did play down at Walsall cricket club with limited success. When I went to university, I played for the Standard club in the Coventry League which was great fun. Sadly, these days I only really turn out for the annual BBC under-35 v over-35 match. Last year I was controversially run out by our captain - and fully intend to return the favour later in the summer.
Q. Which current player do you most admire?
I would say probably Australian Adam Gilchrist. He helped change the way that Test cricket is played with his incredible strike rate and positive attitude. He also plays the game the right way - I will never forget when he walked during the 2003 World Cup semi-final in Port Elizabeth even though the umpire had given him not out. To be such a good sportsman in such a huge match was incredible. I was thrilled that at least the disastrous 2007 West Indies World Cup was won by some magic Gilchrist batting. He is also seems a very nice bloke and is very helpful to the media.
Q. Which do you prefer, a Test match, a one-day international or a Twenty20 game?
For me cricket is a bit like going out for dinner. Sometimes what you want is a really nice three course meal with your friends where the conversation ebbs and flows - that is like a Test Match. But sometimes what you want is a really quick sandwich which you still enjoy but in a different way - that for me is like a Twenty20 match.
Test Cricket will always be my first love , but I do love the excitement of Twenty20 matches played in front of capacity crowds. If anything my least favourite is one day internationals - there are too many of them played and they are too instantly forgettable. You don't seem to get enough decent matches for whatever reason and they can be rather predictable.
Q. Where is your favourite cricket venue?
Like many others I would say New Road Worcester. I spent many summer afternoons there watching Graeme Hick score hundreds and wondering why he didn't do it at Test level. It is such a beautiful ground and there is something magical about being so close to the action.