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TMS changes explained

Adam Mountford | 15:21 UK time, Wednesday, 20 August 2008

There has been a fair amount of comment since the news was announced that Mike Selvey was not going to be part of the Test Match Special team and I thought it was a good opportunity to explain the thinking behind this decision.

Firstly I would again like to thank Mike for his outstanding contribution to the programme. The decision was not an easy one, but we felt that the time was right to introduce some more recent Test cricketers into the commentary mix.

Over the 51 years of the programme TMS has always evolved and occasionally a new voice has arrived. It is important for the commentary team to have a blend of experiences, backgrounds and voices.

The mix is the crucial part of the success of the programme and we felt that a couple of more current names would bring listeners a different viewpoint.

Jonathan Agnew has been a TMS commentator since 1991 (picture taken 2005)

We believe a team which includes for example the wisdom and wit of Vic Marks, the strong opinion and great historical knowledge of Geoff Boycott plus more recent perspective from the likes of Angus Fraser, Phil Tufnell and Alec Stewart is a really strong line up going forward, complemented by popular overseas names like Jeremy Coney, Viv Richards and Shaun Pollock, who has made a very encouraging debut this summer.

I would like to set the record straight on a couple of things that have been suggested. There seems to be a concern that TMS is being "dumbed down" or turned into "Radio 5 Live".

I can state categorically that there is no pressure or desire to change what is distinctive about Test Match Special. It is a unique programme which has always blended outstanding commentary with great humour and strong journalism and appeals to listeners from different backgrounds and different age groups. It is loved equally by cricket obsessives and by those with only a passing interest in the game.

A lot of the talk about TMS "becoming like 5 Live" seems to have come about because a couple of the newer commentators have previously done most of their broadcasting on 5 Live. However any talk of a "5 Live" takeover is simply not true.

This summer for example only ONE Test match out of seven has actually featured one of the newer commentators with Mark Pougatch part of the team at Lord's. Mark was joined by TMS stalwarts Jonathan Agnew and Christopher Martin-Jenkins. The core commentary team were on duty for the other six games.

Mark Pougatch is an outstanding broadcaster with a great knowledge and passion for cricket who has been involved with the sport throughout his career including reporting for BBC Radio on tours to New Zealand and Australia plus commentating on Cricket World Cup games and one day internationals.

There has been some comment about newer commentators not knowing enough about the game. I go back to my comment earlier about the importance of a mix within the TMS team.

The programme has always thrived through its combination of excellent broadcasters and experts who played the game to the highest level.

John Arlott, Brian Johnston, Henry Blofeld and Christopher Martin-Jenkins are four of the programme's most popular ever commentators who did not play the game at the top level.

Equally popular is Jonathan Agnew who of course was a former Test match player and he can bring a different perspective to his commentary. I believe the mix of former players and excellent broadcasters is critical.

Obviously the majority of our audience do not play the game at the highest level and sometimes the queries they have can be echoed by a broadcaster with a journalistic curiosity who, whilst having an excellent knowledge of the game, does not know all the answers.

Some have asked why there is a need to find new voices at all. Well the answer to that is that we have to! The growing amount of cricket that the BBC covers simply cannot be covered by the core team.

For example this winter alone features tours to India and the West Indies, the Champions Trophy, the Champions League, the Stanford series and the Women's World Cup. A team of three commentators can simply not do all of this.

One of the most exciting parts of the job is trying to develop the broadcasters to augment the core team. Not surprisingly some names will inevitably come from the BBC Sports Room as that is the home of some of the countries most outstanding broadcasters.

Of course the likes of Christopher Martin-Jenkins came through that route. However we are also working with others from a different background, for example Simon Hughes will be part of our commentary team for the India Test series.

Finally I would like to strongly dispute any suggestion that there is a desire to "dumb down" TMS. The programme is and always will be a mix of intelligent debate, brilliant commentary and great humour.

One of my favourite memories of listening to TMS was hearing Brian Johnston discussing the latest goings on in "Neighbours". There were no remarks about TMS "dumbing down" then. It was simply part of the rich diversity of the programme.

This summer I believe this mix has been as strong as ever. We have had serious debate about the influx of "Twenty20 Leagues" and the resignation of Michael Vaughan, gripping commentary such as the thrilling climax to the Oval one-day international against New Zealand and moments of great humour such as the great Christopher Martin-Jenkins "fishing" incident.

When I took over as TMS Producer I stated that it was an honour and a privilege to be involved in a national institution. It is a job which carries great responsibility and I take it very seriously.

The game of cricket is evolving at a great rate so we should also be looking to evolve our coverage of it.

However there has never been any need for major change to the programme and major change is not going to happen.

It is essential that Test Match Special remains a national institution, and it will.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Nice to see that our comments are at least being noticed.

    Personally my problem is not with having new presenters, making the game accessible, or having presenters that haven't played at the highest level, - I think that some of the better presenters are those that have honed the craft of presenting over a period of time as you say.
    My problem is just that some of them, such as Boycott and Pougatch to name just two, just don't cut the mustard and certainly don't provide the level of insight that Selvey has over the years.

    Simon Hughes should be a very welcome addition.

  • Comment number 2.

    It is very good of you to address the concerns of many listeners, even if some of them were intemperately put.

    I still fear somewhat for TMS, this wouldn't be the first time that a reassuring blog was written when intentions were less benevolent (look at pretty much anything Roger Mosey has ever written), but I am somewhat reassured by the apparent thought that has gone into the piece.

    Thanks.

  • Comment number 3.

    How can you replace as summarizer the erudite Mike Selvey with the giggling Alec Stewart ? Stewart is also far too close to the players he is acting as agent for.

    As for the commentators, another Simon Mann is what you need, not Mark 'FIGJAM' Pougatch.

  • Comment number 4.

    A good team for next year's Ashes, although Alec Stewart and Graham Gooch do not match their cricketing talent with the microphone.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    The one who needs to go is Vic Marks... he was a journeyman player who only got where he did becuase he was public-school -Peter May (the head of selection at the time) had a thing for his type.

    And hearing him recently make such a passionate case for Paul Harris (the SA attempts-to-spin-it) was utter pap!

  • Comment number 7.

    If we're on the subject of TMS voices, could I add my congratulations to Tuffers for his stints during the final SA test?

    OK, sophisticated he isn't, but I thought he gelled very well with the team and he is of course a raconteur of note. Much better than Alec Stewart.

    Phil has had his detractors round and about this blog; I for one think they're totally unjustified. More, please!

  • Comment number 8.

    I've no great problems with Mark Pougatch, although I am sad to see Mike Selvey go. There are others who'd be much higher on my personal hit list!

    Am I the only one who think Boycott is the biggest liability? Some love him, other hate him - but he's very divisive and hence distracts from coverage that all can enjoy. He's becoming more and more a self parody - and the only one who makes me switch channel as soon as he goes off on one of his self-absorbed rants.

    I'd rather listen to occasional updates on the apparently dumbed down Radio 5 than suffer Boycott for any length of time!

  • Comment number 9.

    This blog is very much appreciated, however, I would just like to state for the record that "Selvers" has been an absolute joy to listen to over the years, mixing his knowledge and experience with a dry wit and honesty that can only come from a Guardian cricket writer.

    Mike thanks, and we will miss you.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have enjoyed the many varied talents of your TMS commentary team over many years of listening.
    It is good that changes can be made to the various members. It saves anyone going stale or not everyone is always available for every broadcast around the world.
    It is also good that you can use cricketing people who are better commentators, reporters than players.
    May I suggest one person in this category, who I always enjoy listening to on Radio Nottingham or Leicester and that is John Shaw. John comes out with some wonderful lines and comments in his reports.
    Maybe there will be a chance for him some day.
    Certainly better to listen to than Geoffrey "I am the best" Boycott.

  • Comment number 11.

    TMS beats the hell out of the appalling Sky Sports commentary. Gower as presenter...?...Bob Willis? Botham?...It's enough to make you want to turn the TV to mute!

    The difference is where you use to get a journalist/interviewer commentating with an ex player, his skills were to bring answers/views out of the ex cricketer. Unfortunately when you have a commentary team solely made up of ex players who cant string a sentence together let alone bring the game to life it becomes slightly dull. I'm not blaming the ex players, as making the game interesting whilst talking all day is no easy feat, it's just i think that the selection of presenters/commentators should be not purely base on whether you've played for England or not.

    Just an example, imagine Michael Parkinson leading the commentary...he'd be able to make Bob Willis a million more times interesting than he currently is.

    Anyway, TMS is currently hugely superior to any other cricketing commentary, let’s hope it remains so.

    I also agree with one of the other blogs regarding Simon Hughes, he would also make a good addition to the team.

  • Comment number 12.

    I thought I was the only one who thought Boycott was a liability. Good to know I am not alone.

    You had the chance to remove him and chose Selvey? Well I think it was a big mistake to ever have this playground bully. I don't like people who stir just to get a reaction.

    Marks and Fraser are sublime and Tuffers very informative and all are warm human beings. Keep them coming....
    Thanks
    Jessica


  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Adam

    Thanks for the opportunity to add some more thoughts to the vipers nest that your earlier post prodded!

    Firstly thanks for the positive response to my request for coverage of the Lions match – I hope you can manage to achieve this.

    Secondly I feel that some of the comments on the other blog and indeed the Telegraph article are somewhat venomous in content – I really don’t believe that calling you an idiot is TMS language and I would hope that the majority of the other fans would agree, this is not about getting personal but protecting a much loved institution. It is however the price we seem to have pay for the freedom to blog ?

    However, in spite of your spirited defence of the changes that have occurred over the few years - me thinks thou doth protest too much.

    Yes I accept and agree the need for change and for bringing in new blood especially with more games being played and you being the only place that non Sky subscribers can get their willow fix.

    The key then is not the need to change, but to manage the change slowly , carefully and within the spirit of the existing culture of the organisation. Businesses have learnt to their cost over many years that mergers/takeovers fail because of the importance of managing cultures have been overlooked. I know you say that there has been no 5livication (good term however came up with it) but I think the very strength of the comments made to date would make you realise that your customers (and bosses) disagree.

    In terms of specifics on some of the commentators / summarisers:-

    Whilst I like Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart for their knowledge of the game, I feel that their various commercial interests get in the way of their objectivity – Gooch bigs up the Essex Boys all the time as does Alex those he represents as manager – remember this is the BBC ! Perhaps you could find other equally qualified lest partisan participants.

    I do have to agree with the general view that Mark Pougatch has not been a great success – he may have more of a cricket background than we thought, but let me put it this way – he hides it well! More important is his style we want commentators to “paint a picture” not rattle stats (that’s Bill’s Job) and interview the summarisers.

    Arlo is getting better, as is Alison, but they have a long way to go but if I get my way and you do more Lions games (and even overseas warmup games?) then they make the grade

    On the Positives of newer people – I think Simon Mann is getting good, Tuffers was fantastic, Graham Thorpe Excellent – definitely need him for the Ashes.

    As for the old guard – Blowers may have lost a few yards of pace (or is that miles) but is still irreplaceable. Aggers is still top draw even if he is turning into a grumpy old man before our eyes – Jonathan if you are not careful you will soon be as grumpy as Gus (Still good) . CMJ Late as usual. Vic more please.

    And the there is Geoffrey – the TMS version of Marmite you love him or hate him, or in my case both! Aggers winding him up priceless – Ego annoying – you choose.


    I was going to do a presenter score card as well but I think I have droned on too much already

    Bottom line we all care massively about TMS and look to you to preserve it for the next generation, whilst entertaining us along the way.

    Thanks

    MGB

  • Comment number 14.

    I listen to cricket because I want to listen to cricket commentary.
    While I don't doubt that the "new boys" have the enthusiasm for the job, it's clear they don't love cricket, having a "passing interest" isn't good enough. Aggers or CMJ could be talking about Alice in Wonderland and we'd still be picking up the atmosphere and energy of the test match. By all means, I think the new commentators have a place on the 50/20 over game, but to keep an audience enthusiastic and interested without pictures for 5 days (sometimes when not much is happening) it's crucial that we feel that the commentary team actually cares one way or the other.
    To commentate on a test match on the radio I don't think you can come from commentating on football or another sport now.
    Tuffers and Shaun Pollock have been top quality however.

  • Comment number 15.

    I don't actually think that when a player played is relevant to how effective they are as a summarizer. Selvey has a deep, passionate knowledge of the game, which has developed over the years. Surely the job of a summarizer is to comment on the subtleties and nuances of the game not how well their ex colleagues and mates are doing. Alec Stewart and Tuffnell , good a players as they were, are still too close to the curent players to be completely objective. It was obvious to all that Alec was holding back in some of his comments, as was Tuffers.

    I don't object to the introduction of new commentors, Adam - Simon Mann is fine, just don't try and pull the wool over our eyes with the 'couple of more current names' viewpoint, especially when you contradict yourself with the continued inclusion of Boycott and Marks.

  • Comment number 16.

    There is, of course, the point that notwithstanding his immense first hand knowledge, the egocentric Boycott, is yet another repetitive whinging Yorkshireman in the long line of Illingworth, Trueman and Close.

    He seems to keep his most positive pronouncements for his Channel 5 stint.

    Can I nominate him as next for the chop?
    And I would support the addition of Simon Hughes to the team to replace him.

  • Comment number 17.

    Not so much dumbing-down, perhaps, as giving-way to the cult of celebrity?

    Great cricketers rarely make good commentators or summarisers. It is as if, having been blessed with a natural, instinctive ability to play the game, the task of analysing play and explaining it to others less gifted - preferably in a way that is entertaining and accessible - is alien to them.

    As a player, Mike Selvey was never really a cricketing celebrity but his work at the microphone has always been informative and entertaining. Compare that with the hot air (all heat and no light) produced by the cricketing celeb that is G. Boycott and I fear that TMS is being steered in a worrying direction.

    True, the programme needs to evolve; perhaps it is right to bring-in 'recent' players (like Phil Tufnell) to sit alongside the likes of Jonathan Agnew and CMJ. It's just that I can't help thinking that if JA and CMJ were starting-out now, they wouldn't get a look-in from Mr Mountford.

  • Comment number 18.

    Re Post 13

    Apologies for the punctuation - it appears that hyphens, apostrophises, inverted comers and exclamation marks all got turned into question marks by the wonders that is technologies

    MGB

  • Comment number 19.

    Thanks for the explanation, better than other arms of the beeb!

    To be fair you will always get stick and I think you know that, some listeners need to learn to accept that the world moves on.

    As for my little thoughts, I am not sold on Mark yet although he is a quality jurno and more than likely needs time to settle, Tuffers is a TMS legend in the making him and Blowers together would be great if bizarre!

    Aggers, Vic and Arlo are top draw more so when winding Boycott up (I do like him, moaning old git that he is,). Stewart and his agent links worry me slightly.

    Good job all round, keep it up.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks for taking the time to make these comments, Adam. It's a shame that over-excited and curmudgeonly journalists, along with the usual straggle of internet-message-board-trawling misanthropes, have put you in the position where you feel that you have to explain yourself.

    I always read these blogs and comments, but never post myself: but I thought I should do so on this occasion, to give you a reassuring pat on the shoulder and let you know that the silent majority of listeners out there appreciate your continued stewardship of TMS.

    Over the past year, the programme has evolved naturally and comfortably, with the introduction of fresh voices and ideas that were frankly essential. Without the gentle innovations and assimilation of new blood, then these boards would have been full of folk moaning about how TMS had ossified and the 'new man' in charge feared change.

    I feel that TMS retains the core traditional elements of clear commentary, entertaining banter, educational observations and informative expert opinion. It also is attracting a new audience of young cricket fans who haven't had the privilege of seeing the game live or on TV, and who like the current mix of authoritative analysis and playful jabber: as a secondary school teacher who talks to sports-mad teenagers every day, I know that they value TMS. When I was a boy, I was put off by what I perceived to be the stuffy air of a gentleman's club which I had no right to enter.

    Adam, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't; I admire your honesty and hope that you continue to do what you - as a cricket lover and professional broadcaster - feel works.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thank goodness for TMS and computers, which keep adopted Canadians in touch which cricket. That Boycott can get under your skin is obvious but if you can set aside his ego there is often a depth of cricket insight there, which we don't get with Tuffers for example. Tuffers' light-hearted approach is a great relief after a Boycott session but where Tufnell falls short is in his cricketing knowledge, comments about which do not seem to come as naturally to him as his more light-hearted observations! I was extremely impressed with the patience shown by CMJ the other day as Boycott went off on one of his rants and CMJ hardly had time to describe the next delivery! Stewart and Gooch, though good cricketers, are uninspiring as commentators as they were captains. I recall in Wellington, NZ airport, Gooch behind Mickey Stewart leading his team single-file across the airport concourse into a secluded area. It epitomised his narrow military style and caused much mirth! It will be a pity to see Mike Selvey go and why him and not Vic Marks, for example? Who will replace him from "more recent test cricketers" with as good a use of language coupled with the cricketing insight he provides? Noone from the recent crop comes to mind. Whatever you do keep Blowers and what happened to Graham Fowler, one of my favourites!

    My Boycott-like rant would be about the unavailability of TMS in the winter, which is long enough in Canada without cricketing relief! Cannot the BBC negotiate something, even if only for us Internet users??! Cricinfo just doesn't cut it!

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    I dont know how Alec Stewart and Graham Gooch can be considered superior to Mike Selvey in terms of talent.

    Also, as previous post says, they are far too close still to the current game.

    The incestuous trend in journalism these days - seen especially in football - where today's managers/players are yesterday's and tomorrow's pundits leads to a tedious lack of critical analysis. Nothing can be said that can possibly be taken as offensive. The more "recent voices" that crop up on TMS, the more this debilitating disease will infect the airwaves.

    PS - apart from GB, who I agree is becoming a bit of a parody, I cant think of any great English commentators who had also had a distinguished test career.

  • Comment number 26.

    This was a very spirited defence by Mr.Mountford; nevertheless, my feeling about dumbing down is shared by a number of other listeners.

    I understand the resistance to change/moving the furniture arguments, but the fact is good commentating is an art: some have it and some don't.

    However accomplished Mark Pougatch is, he simply sounded wrong on TMS - it may not be the right programme for him.

    Tuffers has been a complete pleasure (whilst, regrettably, Messrs. Stewart and Gooch have not).

  • Comment number 27.

    Iwould welcome any so called expert to the TMS TEAM as long as they have the good sense to criticise the diabolical decision to recall Harmison to the test side.Atherton was 100 per cent right in saying that Harmison,s international record over the past two years has been woeful,and that the selectors decision had given completely the wrong message.Harmison,s attitude has been a disgrace with his sense of national pride virtually non existent.I applaud Atherton for speaking out publicly about an overated,bloated ego who should never have been considered for selection.Let,s hope that Mike Selvey,s successor has the guts to speak his mind in the way Atherton has.

  • Comment number 28.

    Personally - I don't mind the changes that are being made to TMS. I can't say I like the roving reporter idea much but it's tolerable. To me - the issue has to be variation. Nobody could stand listening to the same voice all day even if that were humanly possible. Commentators commentate in different ways and that's fine. Personally I've never been a fan of Blowers but he obviously has his fans - fair enough - I can switch off for 20 mins when he comes on.

    I'd also like to say that in my opinion a commentator has to have either (or both) of the following attributes:
    1) A great knowledge of the game based on experience. This differs from a great knowledge based on watching which is why journalists seldom make good commentators.

    or

    2) Be very listenable to. This is obviously subjective as I said earlier - I find Blowers very hard to listen to. Arlott was brilliant as was Alan Gibson and Neville Oliver.

    Mike Selvey played a handful of tests (just 2 if I remember rightly) and I didn't find him particularly listenable to so I'm glad he's gone.

    Aggers at least is listenable to even if, to be honest, I don't really think he has a great knowledge of the game. I know that's a controversial remark given he played county cricket for years but it's my honest opinion. It's not the technical areas knowing what a flipper is or where point is - rather he doesn't really know much about playing internationally - his int'l career ended less than 12 months after it started and he didn't play that many games!

    CMJ is by far my favourite as he has brilliant knowledge and I love his voice. There are no buses, no fuss with him - he's eloquent, somewhat poetic at times, knowledgable and accurate.

    I've no problem with the newer voices either like Tuffers with his phrases like "moolered" of "feng shui'd". Nobody could say that Tuffers didn't know the game. One of the greatest cricket brains of all time, Nasser Hussain, rated Tuffers opinions highly.

    Long live TMS and providing the right commentators are selected - and I think they probably are now Selvey's gone and Tuffers and Stewart are recruited - I think it will.

  • Comment number 29.

    There has been no moderation of Jonathan Agnew,s comments supporting Harmison,s recall to the test side.Why then moderate comments that argue against the inclusion of Harmison? TMS is not just about humerous,jovial banter.It,s also about serious,constructive criticism.Please have the courage to respect and publish such criticism,otherwise,ther,s simply no point to any sort of debate whatsover.

  • Comment number 30.

    I feel I should leap to Graham Gooch's defense here. He's often done excellent stints on TMS, especially when holding the fort during a rain break. He's a shrewd and astute observer of the game.

    Vic Marks is a natural at the mike, and it truly would be a national disgrace if he were to go. I have faith that this won't happen for a considerable time yet :)

    Tuffers - amusing yes, but I don't think he should be over-used. Save him as a treat for one or two matches in a season.

    TMS is a rare and precious thing. I feel cautiously optimistic after reading Mr Mountford's reply. Fortunately we're still able to benefit from Mike Selvey's wisdom in his excellent Guardian articles but I still feel that it was mistake to drop him.

  • Comment number 31.

    Boycott Bashing?

    He may be arrogant but he is highly entertaining.

    I love it when he starts to rant and rave and has ding dongs with other commentators.

    Phil Tuffnell is another good choice who provides a plucky and glorious ying to the pompous and dusty yang that often pervades TMS.


    I would like to nominate Mark Steel for status as honoury commentator.



  • Comment number 32.

    As an avid fan of TMS of many years standing, I must say that I have not taken to the voice of Simon Mann. I like the newer commentators like Arlo White, Mark Pougatch and Russel Fuller and as Mr Mountford says in his statement we need a range of contibutors to the programme, but I hope that Mr Mann isn't one of them.Nothinf personal, just don't care for the resonation and tone of is voice.That's all.

  • Comment number 33.

    What a load of absolute rubbish, Mr Mountford, your comments are an insult to the readers of this blog and the programme's listeners. To say that Mark Pougatch is the only newer commentators to have worked on TMS this summer is disingenuous at best and simply untrue at worst; Simon Mann is a newer commentator, Do you really think that Shaun Pollock "made a very encouraging debut this summer"? You have to be joking. Pollock's insights such as "he'll be disappointed with that shot" are depressing. He's been ghastly, a pointless addition. Finally, Alec Stewart, as agent to some of the players, should not be allowed near the TMS box. Are you not aware of the phrase 'conflict of interest'?

  • Comment number 34.

    Adam Mountford writes "Some have asked why there is a need to find new voices at all. Well the answer to that is that we have to! The growing amount of cricket that the BBC covers simply cannot be covered by the core team."

    The answer - reduce the size of the team by getting rid of one of the most intelligent and knowledgable contributors to the programme.

    Is it me, or is the logic not quite right.


  • Comment number 35.

    Please thank Mr. Mark Pougatch for his past work on TMS, but _do_ show him the door. His commentating style is not suitable for Test Match cricket. Whenever he takes to microphone, I switch off the radio off!

  • Comment number 36.

    I love TMS, and dont have many problems with it. You have a good mix, and all commentators are excellent as far as im concerned.

    Current and retired players are absolutly brilliant, Shaun Pollock, Graeme Swann, etc.

    I was listening to twenty finals day, and a game before that, and i think Jason Gillespie is your man for the Ashes next year. Funny as well as some great points. Remember to book your resort in Ma-yorkca.

  • Comment number 37.

    I agree that it's good to get an explanation even if it is more of a PR one, than defensible to cross examination.

    I think Stewart should be banned for ever from TMS. His comments are platitudinous and don't reflect his ability as a player. The way he has been allowed to push Prior and Ambrose (under his management) has been scandalous, and Mountford owes us an apology for not sorting this out. He has done a huge disservice to English cricket as I am sure he has been a key lubricant of the bandwagon which has got Prior back - when as a keeper it has to be either Read or Foster. Personally I find Gooch dull (as per his batting !), and am sure you can find someone more insightful.

    Tuffers has been much better than I expected, and Simon Mann is fine. Undecided on Pougatch. I do agree that Simon Hughes would be a good addition.

  • Comment number 38.

    The defensiveness of these remarks speaks volumes. I have no problem whatsoever with new commentators; Simon Mann is a fine addition. But Mr Pougatch's 'breathless' and inane commentary, to be blunt, is wholly at odds with the flavour of TMS; his receipt of a TMS tie must stand as the lowpoint of the cricket season.

    I also agree with those who question the continued inclusion of Alec Stewart as a summariser. What do his 'remarks' contribute? I agree that, ideally, it would be nice to include at least one relatively recent Test player in the commentary team; unfortunately, as they are trained to speak pablum, they can't or won't ruffle any feathers, there are no options at 'Test' level.

  • Comment number 39.

    wow is being compared to radio 5 so bad? yes! and you made such a fist at denying any link that one can only think the producer doth protest too much

  • Comment number 40.

    Boycott and Agnew are the thoughts and style on the program. CMJ, Blowers etc are legends and should remain.

    Boycott is loved and hated because he is willing to say what he thinks/feels without thought of whom he may upset - he will always have critics for this and he is a rare breed. To lose someone who genuinely says it how it is would be a travesty.

    Agnew has become the gel that sticks it all together.

    I love TMS, its as good taday as its always been.

    If it aint broke - dont fix it!

    Monty, Croesyceiliog CC, Wales

  • Comment number 41.

    Thanks for the comments so far.

    Just to answer a couple of the points raised.

    Mikey on Post 33 mentions that Simon Mann is a "newer commentator". He has been part of the TMS team for twelve years.

    He also mentions concerns about Alec Stewart and possible conflicts of interest.

    Alec is a player with great stature in the game and his opinion is based on his 133 tests as an England player. Alec makes it very clear that he is never influenced by any involvement with players , although obviously the greater insight he gains through working with current members of the England side can be valuable to our coverage.

    Alec will equally offer praise or criticism to players he is involved with or not involved with. For example last summer at the Oval Alec made the point that one of the players he's worked with Matt Prior , had a serious technical flaw as a wicketkeeper which would have to be worked on.

    And in answer to Andy on post 34. On TMS we generally have commentators who describe each delivery and expert summarisers who comment . I was making the point that the core team of commentators has to be added to in order to cover the amount of extra cricket being played. We are fortunate to have lots of excellent summarisers to call upon at the moment.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think Boycott is a tremendous entertainer, and doggedly insightful too. I have been listening since the '70s and it really doesn't matter if you love him or hate him, he can be counted on to liven up proceedings. I don't think that there can be any doubt that losing Selvey is a change for the worse, or that the change was made for the reasons people fear. Selvey should know why it's happened, after all. Mr. Mountford doth protest too much.

  • Comment number 43.

    A poor, overlong and highly defensive article. It almost seems that Mr Mountford knows that it is a disgrace to get rid of someone like Mike Selvey, an intelligent, in sightful commentator, and is doing his utmost to justify a bad decision. He says this was not an easy decision, but my question is why was it considered at all? The Tms team has done its usual fine job recently, so why get rid of one of its stalwarts? Soon the TMS box will probably be filled with jobsworths, and will indeed be just like five live. A disgraceful decison, and the pathetic justifications for it cut no ice with me. Mr Mountford is obviously more interested in style than substance.

  • Comment number 44.

    I like most of the summarisers, not really sure about Tufnell, abit too ladish for my taste. Wondering why Gooch never did a test this summer for TMS, I like his commentary, much more gentler in analysis than Boycott and more saner! and miss his jousting with Agnew. I hope you have not axed him like Selvey? Have to agree with everyone else about Pougatch and White, however Simon Mann is a good addition to the commentators.

  • Comment number 45.

    Good blog Adam, thank you for it.

    Firstly - I've heard it all now, someone who doesn't rate Vic Marks!

    To be honest you can't win can you. If Henry Blowfeld commentates then you get people saying he is past it and is no good.

    When you use Mark Pougatch or Arlo White people complain they are no good and don't know the game.

    Basically it comes to this - each to their own.

    I have to echo your comment though Adam, I was going to say exactly the same thing about Simon Mann (my personal favoruite) - he has been on TMS since 1996!

    I totally understand where you are coming from, the amount of cricket you cover these days is a lot more than in the past and of course you need a bigger team across all forms.

    One day Blowers and CMJ will retire and Aggers can't do the whole match by himself!

    One point I want to make at this point is that it should be noted that Arlo White was given his test match commentary debut by Peter Baxter and in Adam Mountford's first full season in charge he didn't get a test.

    I'm pleased to hear you will be using Simon Hughes again this winter, that is good news.

    I would like to see Graham Gooch back on TMS next season.

  • Comment number 46.

    I have to agree with those who aren't fans of Mark Pougatch. I like him hosting the 5 Live Saturday afternoon show, and that's where he should stay.

    Dumbing down may be a bit harsh, but the roving reporter thing is rather tedious and doesn't really add anything, in my opinion.

    What a shame about Mike Selvey's departure. He'll be missed. I'd rather keep him and lose Vic Marks, who rarely fails to irritate the life out of me.

    I'm surprised that some don't rate Gooch. Apart from seeing things through Essex tinted spectacles, I think he's very good. He's not afraid to give his opinions and does so in a less blunt manner than G Boycott.

    I have to add that CMJ brings such an air of cricketing authority to proceedings, he's a joy to listen to.

  • Comment number 47.

    Count me amongst those that can't stand Boycott - his one-note moaning about everything he sees as wrong with the modern game is tiresome and annoying.

    More Jeremy Coney, please!

  • Comment number 48.

    I love TMS and have enjoyed the coverage this summer just as much as before. Tufnell and Pollock have been fantastic debutants and the old guard of Aggers, Blowers, Vic Marks etc has been as good as ever.

    However, I do have to agree that Mark Pougatch is just dull to listen to-- I have even taken to following the score on the live text on the web whilst he's on-- and that on occassion Boycott has been unbearable this year. A little bit of criticism where due is fine, but Geoffery's consistent criticism and 'it was never like that in my day' view are worse than tedious.

  • Comment number 49.

    I listen to TMS for perceptive comments re the sport and debate re the direction it is going in.

    Quite frankly while you allow a certain out of date duffer who knows all about wine, sweden, golf and red double decker buses
    ( note they were all phased out eons ago by the way ) his credibility on TMS is zero.

    He can't get half the players names right, the positions they are in nor some times their nationality.

    I pay my lience for his dribble - I suggest you put him into one of his own wheely bins!!!

    THIS WOULN'T BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN ON ANY OTHER SPORTS PROGRAMME...or is the truth the BBC doesn't give a stuff as since they think the core audience is the 3,000 retired colonels in Eastbourne ?????

  • Comment number 50.

    Why is "newer" or "younger" always considered better?

    Mike Selvey is far more interesting and insightful than dull, miserable Angus Fraser or the equally boring Gooch and Stewart.

  • Comment number 51.

    I#ve listened to TMS since i was a youngster and it makes summer for me. Like everybody else, i enjoy certain commentators and summarisers and have always wondered Adam how you choose the commentators for particular test matches ie sometimes it can be Blowers then CMJ then Simon Mann etc etc.

    I accept that with time comes change; fresh ideas, fresh voices. The loss of Mike Selvey is a pity for me and i accept that people take time to bed in as commentators and summarisers but i have always believed only change if the people who replace can offer more than the people they are replacing.

    I'd love to see TMS publish Views from the Boundary on the website regulary as downloads in fact im amazed they've never published them on disc for people to buy - View from the Boundary is iconic radio listening and should never be removed from the TMS schedules

  • Comment number 52.

    I agree with many of the comments above along the lines of "he doth protest too much". The so-called justification about no longer using Mike Selvey is completely unconvincing. Selvey is an extremely articulate and intelligent observer of the game, and the combination of insight and experience he offers makes him far better able to present a player's perspective than either CMJ or Blowers.

    The following comment, in particular, is extraordinary:

    "There has been some comment about newer commentators not knowing enough about the game. I go back to my comment earlier about the importance of a mix within the TMS team."

    Do you mean to imply that ignorance about the game is good for "the mix"? That is as good as an admission that the intention re newer commentators is precisely to dumb down TMS. (Added to which, pretending that this vacuous spin answers the objection adds insult to injury.)

    Maybe making Selvey TMS Producer would be a better idea!

  • Comment number 53.

    As a twentysomething listener of TMS, I suspect that the dismissal of Mike Selvey is aimed at the likes of me and frankly, I don't care that he's gone - nor would I have been bothered had he stayed. His insights were interesting but rarely unique and he never seemed to have the depth of personality on show by the other commentators.

    Although I love Tuffers, he is not man enough for the job - the same is true of Graham Thorpe I suspect although I hope I'm wrong. Stewart and Gooch battle it out for most monotonous speakers on any radio wave, let alone 198LW.

    As for Boycott, he's a prat, but Agnew constantly winding him up is hilarious.

    Pougatch never allows himself to be washed over by the TMS reverie, but Arlo White is definitely promising as first-change.

    As for Simon Hughes...is it me, or was he the best thing when C4 had the cricket and then seemed to disappear for ages, only popping up for a bit of air. The guy is witty, knowledgeable and seems o understand the way cricket has to change and adapt for the future. He's a legend already and his autobiography is a blinding read as well.

    My only fear is that, come the end of the season, the one and only Dazzler Gough will be regarded as a brilliant addition to the TMS team as he has so much yoof appeal. The only thing yooful about Gough is his maturity, which is probably that of a 13-year-old.

  • Comment number 54.

    I'm sorry but notwithstanding Alec Stewart's ability as a summariser (I'm not a fan) he is totally unacceptable as a TMS regular given the conflict of interest with his position as an agent

  • Comment number 55.

    Adam, despite my parents havign Sky installed, I have barely watched it over the last year. TMS is far more entertaining and delivers far more real cricketing knowledge than all the slow-motion replays and slow motion commentators on Sky Sports.

    I would be worried if TMS followed the Sky Sports route and picked ex-players purely as pundits. There are very few distinctive commentary voices on Sky. The football is dreadful and still nobody beats John Motson and others on the BBC. TMS has the blend perfectly. Shaun Pollock was excellent this summer, the Kiwi tour was an absolute riot and dragging Phil Tufnell into the box was brilliant as it showed the other side to Tuffers. He is a bit of a larrikin but he's also got a lot of cricketing knowledge in that mind of his (he knew Michael Lynagh's nickname at uni! Awesome stuff!)

    People here are worried about TMS being dumbed down because so much else within the BBC has been dumbed down since the Hutton Inquiry. The forums are moderated like hawks. The BBC1 news broadcasts are getting increasingly Americanized and juvenile. Documentaries are less in evidence on the major BBC channels. TMS going down that route would be a very sad state of affairs. TMS is an absolute lifeline for the cricket fan who doesn't wish to have their mind turned into a retarded heap by the Sky crew (much as I live David Lloyd and Michael Holding, listening to Mr Botham for longer than a half hour always ends in a violent bowel movement in protest).

    Long live TMS.

  • Comment number 56.

    as someone who has listened to TMS for a number of years i would like to issue with those who question alec stewarts so called conflict of interest. i find it interesting listening to his views and as someone who was in the dressing room just a few years ago he is in no way biased towards his own players. he agreed with the dropping of prior for the nz series and on his blogs has criticised bell and collingwood. he was a fine player and is now doing a fine job with tms

  • Comment number 57.

    Jonathan Agnew is God, Geoffrey the Devil. Could you wish for more gripping radio?

    Well - there could be a test match going on.

    -- oh there is. Brilliant.

  • Comment number 58.

    I have listened to TMS for more years than I care to remember and I do not think that the programme has in any way "dumbed down"-horrible expression by the way.
    I would say though that I do find the commentary of CMJ and Blowers a concern.This is because of the player identification mistakes that are becoming increasingly common,and also errors made in giving out the individual and team scores.Indeed sometimes the score is not given out at all for long periods.Accuracy of information is vital to the radio listener.
    Simon Mann is my favourite commentator,and listening to Jeremy Coney was a joy this summer.Boycs is always entertaining,but do tell Jonathan Agnew to cheer up a little bit.All in all, though keep up the great work.

  • Comment number 59.

    Good to see Jeremy Coney get a mention. He is, without doubt, the most erudite and compelling summariser of a match of cricket that I have heard in a long time.

    Always an absolute pleasure to listen to what he has to say whether it be on TMS or Sky.

    Can we have him for summers other than those which involve the Kiwis??

  • Comment number 60.

    58 - you are spot on. TMS is very much alive and moving forward in the right direction. Adam Mountford the producer is doing a good job - keep it going. Aggers, Blowers, Tuffers, Stewey and the rest of the team are a joy. well done.

  • Comment number 61.

    Thanks for taking note of comments mr mountford, surely confirming what you already knew that tms has a wide and passionate following. I feel more or less reassured about the program's future (especially regarding the inclusion of Simon Hughes), and though I feel maybe you could have been a little less hasty in putting so many younger ex players straight into the test match commentary while they still lack the broadcasting abilities of someone such as Mike Selvey, (with the exeption of Tuffers who fits right in), and could have slotted them into the one dayers, i can kindve to an extent understand your reasoning for some newer cricketing experts, (although I would prefer it if they were a little more charismatic). I also think mark pougatche's more intense, yet less descriptive 5 live style of commentary would work much better in the faster one day game, where more energy and less cricketing thoughts are required, and would therefore place him only in 50 and 20 over commentary teams. A few cracks have apperared in very recent tms coverage, but as long as this blog is not simply an attempt to paper over them, and you care about preserving the future and tradition of Test match special, then keep up the good work.

    ps: why not try cricket reporter to 5live, pat murphy, who I think could fit right into commentary, in the same way as the excellent Simon Mann.

    pps: everybody hates boycott. But most people love to hate him. I think his annoying to the point of humorous negativity is entertaining, especially with Aggers answering back. But still im glad there isnt two of him.

  • Comment number 62.

    Having just found out that Mike Selvey is leaving, (has been pushed), I would just like to express my thanks to him for doing such a good job, and being a fine contributor to the programme over the years.
    I too feel that we must NEVER allow a 5 live attitude to pervade TMS. I'm quite sure it wont happen in the next decade, but as for the long term I'm not as hopeful, when the likes of Aggers, Blowers and CMJ move on, where are the quintessentially Radio 4 LW English, 'small c' conservatives that make cricket and of course, TMS what it is.
    (I say this as a non-conservative, liberal minded, guardian reader!)
    Finally, I would also endorse the comments about Graham Gooch!!!! - i.e.. who should play for england?.. Gooch's response - Inevitably, Bopara, Foster, Napier ad infinitum.. It's just ridiculous. Even though I highly respect him as an ex England captain and a deep and reasonable thinker about the game. Just have a word with him.
    Finally.. who remembers Foxey Fowler?.. Some people just move on..

  • Comment number 63.

    I regret the loss of Mike Selvey, and some other recent developments. T.M.S., and its presenters, should have a certain gravitas. It is vital that a commentator or summariser should not be so taken with working in the media that they become slightly over-excited. Indeed, they are better to listen to if they radiate a healthy disdain for the broadcasting process which is, after all, secondary to the cricket. Mark Pougatch is a fine example of what is not wanted- slick, fast-talking and improbable. Please guard against feigned excitement, and an increasing tendency to focus on trivia.

  • Comment number 64.

    Cheers Adam, some good areas; its great to have you writing these pieces regularly.

    I feel so embarrassingly and shamefully English to be writing in about the state of TMS, which i do feel is in good health.



    Just a couple of quieres/ points. I am just wondering why you have to make this sudden decleration that you and Selvey have parted ways. it seems to me to be the case that perhaps you dont want to be cascaded as a conservative stick in the mud; hense your attempt at making a big decsion in sacking him? I do not understand why you merly could not have kept Mike on, albeit not covering as many games as he used to.



    I think TMS has been good this summer. Tuffers is a legend, and he in fact does offer a surprsing amount of valued insight, to go with his undoubtadly delightful offbeat demenoaur.

    I like as well Pougach, i recall after his 1st test people were generally poisitve about him.

    Boycott though is infuriating after a while. You could be kind to him, and not tell him your sacking him, but just put him in a room all day, and tell him he is broadcasting to the nation; he'd be none the wiser and very content.



    I do have to say though that if you get rid of Selvey for the likes of Gooch and Stewart, stop it. Both of them are bland and do not have inquistive and irrelvant sense of humour to make a slow session of cricket intersting.

    Everbody else is awesome. Particualry Viv Marks, if you ever get rid of Victor to replace him with the young potential, I will set myself on fire. He is a great broadcaster and does not speak in the dreary bray assocaited with so many new ex players summersiers, after theve come out of some crappy media study course.



    In general Adam good job, hope you gave Mike a good leaving preasent

  • Comment number 65.


    The decision to dismiss Mike Selvey - I use the cricketing term for fear the BBC suggest it is an exaggerated term, is in my opinion one that needs revisiting. Why?

    We are the BBC funders. We pay the wages of the TMS Team and others at the BBC. We provide the comfy chairs for the BBC Trustees, the offices of the DG, the tea and biscuits for the Green Room and the salary of Adam Mounftord and other decision makers. They never say thank you. Jonners of course was a man of courtesy, thanking everyone for everything. The listeners were thanked for their cakes and recipes, their observations and this has been continued by CMJ Aggers et al because they know what it is to commentate to observe and indeed to laugh at themselves.
    When you lose or don't even have to begin with, the skill of articualtion, of comment, and self depreciation then management is not an easy task. Mr Mountford needs to look at the level of anger and upset at the dismissal of Selvey and re-examine his decision and selection. He should do this out of obedience to the licence payer and be brave enough to admit that perhaps his decision needs to be reviewed and possibly undone. Selectors have had to do it so the BBC is no different.

    The level of critiscim about the changes suggest that a proper listener consultation is needed. Let's have a questionnaire that asks what we want, who we like and don't like and the reasons for it. Ensure it is not internet exclusive and perhaps encourage the ECB etc to be involved. More interest more listeners more BBC input and then justification for changes and improvements.

    It took some getting used to realising that TMS was also on Five Live Extra, but it has not been dumbed down. It needs to appeal to a wider audience and marketing is key to this. Arlo White was brilliant covering the 2020 games. He brought passion to the airwaves. Alison Mitchell is a joy to listen to, as is Simon Hughes. All these bring a sure compliment to established figures such as CMJ Aggers Blowers Marks et al. Everyone needs a Boycott and a Tuffers, use them well and it will be a success. As for Mark Pougatch give him time to warm up as Cricket is very different to studio presenting, and other sporting commentary. Perhaps we need a Cricket Commentator's Academy?

    All in all changes ae necessary for improvement and development. The arguments for the dismissal of Selvey do not add up. Replacement for retirement, illness is understandable, but just to give way to another voice who may be in need of training is not a good management decision. Ithas been stated that coerage is increasing so wy drop experience if it works well and is appreciated?

    If the selectors deem that you are not scoring or hitting the wicket then you lose your place. Selvey on TMS proved his right to be there. Other haven't proved their right but remain. TMS Lsteners are the selectors but sadly have no voice, Mr Mountford should be answerable not through a blog but by facts and state how his decisions and selections are made. Then he can be a worthy captain or producer of TMS.

    One can always appeal to the BBC Trustees and DG and demand a proper examination of what is happening. We do pay the wages after all.

  • Comment number 66.

    Thanks for responding to the uprising. You job can't always be fun!

    I was gobsmacked to learn that for all seven Tests this year only the regular TMS commentators were used, with the exception of Mr. Pougatch. My perception of the summer was entirely different. In fact, I would have bet money that Arlo White and even Mark Saggers had taken a turn. Perhaps it was the use of so many different and new summarisers that made the show sound different.

    Trying out new people in one-day games makes sense, especially with more of them to cover all the time. But my reaction to the summer -- which I suspect from other comments is not unique -- suggests that letting the standard for one-day games fall too low just hurts your brand.









  • Comment number 67.

    selvey was always informative and i'm sad to see him go. Poogers has not done anything to impress me on tv and radio really. i agree with those talking about tuffers. he is a real different foil and even makes my cricket hating girlfriend laugh.
    will keep reading selv in the guardian. good luck to him

  • Comment number 68.

    I don't quite understand why this blog explains that to cover all the current forms of cricket then a large number of presenters are needed yet a greatly loved one has just been let go.
    The best cricket commentator of all time is Mark Nicholas. I wish he fronted TMS.

  • Comment number 69.

    I am very sad that Mike Selvey has gone. He is way better than gooch and stewart and he certainly has a much nice voice to listen to. I think the BBC is more concerned with super star cricket names rather than excellent broadcasters.

    It is very sad that test caps are deemed more important than broadcasting!

    Shame on you BBC...

  • Comment number 70.

    Sir Geoffey Boycott is the best thing about TMS and Aggers is TMS as far as I am concerned. However i will say I have been pleasantly surprised by how good tuffers has been. Completely unexpected that. The rest of them i can take or leave.

  • Comment number 71.

    Im with EDclark on this, i do enjoy hearing the ex players and their views on the games, but just because they're ex pro's doesn't make them great talkers or observers... we need more sports journalists like Inverdale asking the questions as they know how to get the best out of their guests... Its all too easy to go with celebrity when they dont bring anything to the table. Just look at the direction of MOTD... Whoever had the brainwave that Lee Dixon was a good talker, let alone showing us an insight other than good or bad play should be shot at dawn for two weeks. Im just thinking of all the really capable journo's in your newsroom who would love the chance of bringing the best out of guests...
    As a whole the Beeb is dumbing down, look at its news output in comparison to ITN. It took Channel four bidding and winning coverage to wake broadcasters up... Please please please, dont let middle management rot happen to TMS... It makes my time at work with cricinfo worthwhile.

  • Comment number 72.

    Pay top Aussie Dollar and Bring back Richie B! Where's that sarni!

  • Comment number 73.

    Reading all of the above actually makes me feel sorry for you Adam. There are positive and negative comments for almost very single commentator and summariser. You can't please 'em all!

    Except for Jeremy Coney. Everybody loved him. Get him to emigrate to the UK right away!

  • Comment number 74.

    How sad and unnecessary to see Selvey depart. I'll miss his laconic, erudite summarising. Mountford needs to be seen making his mark, but please don't dumb down what is a classic programme. Tufnell and co are fine, but only in small doses. Don't tailor the programme for the under thirties.

    Pougatch hasn't quite been up to the mark and obviously his knowledge of cricket isn't thorough enough. Of the younger commentators/summarisers Simon Mann seems the best.

    Stewart and Thorpe are especially poor with their dull, anodyne slightly depressive voices. Good players they were but for the wonderful TMS box, no thanks. Gooch and Pollock aren't great either. Any chance of a recall for Foxy Fowler ?

    Thank goodness for Aggers, CMJ, Fraser, Marks, Coney and Boycott. Selvey's sacking is not a good move. Mountford's piece gives the feeling that he needs to justify everything.


  • Comment number 75.



    I can see the future and its Five Live smooth talking American twang presenters.
    Does everything have to change?

    TMS is like redwine and black olives you grow to love them.

    Whatever happen to the wonderfully un-p.c tealady of the year judged by Gat?

    Oh and by the way Boycott is the best professional Yorkshireman on the radio.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    @75, thats not particularly a ringing endorsement ;)

    I like Sir Geofrey of the Name Drop on TMS, but really, listen to how many name drops or self publicising comments he gets in whilst on air, its rather good fun considering how bad england usually are on the field.

    As for Selvey going, thats heart breaking, and Stewart is not a good replacement. Any chance of getting Lawrence Booth or Andy Bull on?

    And Mark Steel should have a presenting slot as well.

    But complaints aside, I must thankyou for an excellent show and I'm sure it will carry on and evolve as time goes by.

  • Comment number 78.

    I'd love to be able to comment on the dumbing down of TMS or not but it's been so long since I listened in, I'm afraid I can't.

    At home I have Sky Sports and so can watch on TV. But like many listeners I'd prefer to have TMS on in the background and turn the TV sound off. This is no longer possible due to the 30 second delay of online and digital broadcasts.

    As for driving, who still has long wave in their cars?! I've got a choice of updates every 15 mins on 5 Live, which involves listening to the inane chatter of other sports for the entire trip, or take pot luck with other stations. One 3 hour trip for example included merely one report of the score during the last test match.

    Put TMS on FM or medium wave please, give us back out cricket pleasure!

  • Comment number 79.

    Well, first of all, Mr Mountford, I do find it reassuring that you are reading our comments and am very grateful to you for taking the time to respond, although I must admit that I would prefer it if you were to take note of some of them!

    The TMS team is a bit like a cricket team, which needs to have new talent introduced slowly within a winning team. Too many changes, too quickly can bring the end to a winning run (it only needed the introduction of one roof-tiler for England to self-destruct!) I find the justification for replacing Mike Selvey an odd one. Using the cricketing analogy, the fact that the likes of Bopara, Shah, Key and Denly are all playing well and there might be good reasons for promoting them to England's Test side does not mean that it would be a good idea to drop Kevin Pietersen.

    There is also the fact that new talent needs to be nurtured: just as cricketers tend to go through some combination of county, academy and A-team/ Lions, prior to selection for the Test side, so broadcasters should be allowed to develop slowly and prove themselves prior to being selected at the highest level. I think that every single person who has expressed an opinion on Aggers in these comments has praised his excellence. It is worth noting that, after his playing career, he started doing some work for local radio and a bit of print journalism, prior to becoming a summariser for TMS and then, after a while, becoming Cricket Correspondent and a commentator. No-one expected him to be the fully-formed, finished article immediately. The rush to employ recent players does not give them chance to develop or prove their skills, leading to their often lacklustre performances.

    To continue the analogy, a side needs to be well balanced. A cricket team needs to have big-hitters who can make the pace and accumulators who can anchor the innings; electrifying fast bowlers who can unsettle the opposition, canny medium pacers who can restrict the runs and beguiling spinners who can attach with the old ball and exploit a wearing wicket. So it is that TMS, at its best, combines a range of temparaments, characters and voices. So the genial waggishness of Aggers contrasts nicely with the dour, trenchant opinions of Boycott and the outlandish eccentricities of Blowers were offset by the dry, concise insights of Selve. Each personality adds their own colour: Aggers by his knowledge and humour, Blowers by his joi-de-vivre and CMJ by his knowledge of history and exquisite use of language. SImon Mann has added to this with his careful research and accurate reporting and has the potential to bcome another CMJ, in time. But the variety is essential: too many commentators of any type would bring an unwelcome uniformity to proceedings and that is one problem with the "5Liveation".

    I feel that the assertion that the "5Liveation" is not taking place because there was only one test not to feature the "Big 3" of Agnew, Martin-Jenkins and Blofeld was a little disingenuous. Whilst this may be true, a lot of cricket has been broadcast under the title "TMS", which has not featured that core team.

    Then there is a need for specialists. England wouldn't ask Monty Panesar to open the batting, so why have general sports presenters commentating on TMS? Whilst the qualifications of the "old guard" are different: Aggers played at the highest level (albeit that he played few international matches, as Michael Vaughn famously pointed out); Henry was a promising cricketer in his youth, as well as being a passionate lover of the game and great raconteur and CMJ has a long pedigree as an author, journalist, Editor of "The Cricketer" and Cricket Correspondent of a number of newspapers. There is so much time to fill and there are so many nuances in a cricket match that one needs to be steeped in the game. Bluffing will be found out. There is more to it than the footballing school of "it's Smith up the right. Still Smith. He goes past Jones. Smith, to Bloggs back to Smith, GOAAAALLLLL!!!!!!"

    On the specifics of current team members, I would tend to agree with those who are critical of Alec Stewart and Graham Gooch (although I note that Graham Gooch is hardly a new voiice on TMS). Neither catches the imagination, for me and though they occasionally have something insightful to say I find that they often slip into the sportsman's habit of talking in cliches. Gooch's tendency to tell us how good Essex's players are is annoying but probably excusable on the basis that we all have a tendency to think more highly of players we have had an opportunity to see a lot of: as a Man of Kent, I think that James Tredwell is massively underrated. What I find less excusable is Stewart's financial conflict of interest and, whilst you say that he is not influenced by this, I do not see how this can be guaranteed. It might be a risk worth taking if he added something special to the team but I don't believe he does.

    Phil Tuffnell seems to divide opinion, with many enjoying his contributions, although personally I am unconvinced. I find his playing up to the "cheeky chappie" image and Mockney accent grate somewhat. Also, there are probably a number of other players who are recently retired who may have made better broadcasters. During his playing days, though, he did show a good cricketing brain and it may be that, if he settles into the role, he could, in time, become a good summariser but, as I note above, I think that that bedding-down process ought to be allowed to take place prior to joining TMS. My biggest gripe about Tuffers, though, is what he represents: the feeling that he was brought in as a "name"; someone people know from the telly. It suggests ratings-chasing in lieu of the pursuit of excellence. There can be few bigger cricketing names or more famous ex-players in this country than Ian Botham and yet I know no-one who watches Sky just to listen to his commentary. The cult of celebrity is not, need not and should not be the be-all and end-all.

    Geoff Boycott also divides opinion and I actually enjoy his contributions a great deal although I do think that, just as I like my Marmite spread thinly, we should not be over-exposed to Sir Geoffrey, whose self-importance might begin to pall if we had too much of him. Of other summarisers used recently, I think that we have heard far too little from Angus Fraser - whilst some consider him a little Eyore-ish, his gloom is always good natured and he is a good reader of the game with a wealth of experience to call on. I would love to hear more from him than we do. Vic, of course, is sublime and in terms of experience, knowledge, delivery, wit and language is a perfect cricket broadcaster. Also, I would like to again note my support of the small (but notable) number of people that would love to hear Graeme Fowler on TMS again. If the Beeb has the money to lure "TV's King of the Jungle" then surely it must be able to persuade Durham University to let "Foxy" have a few days off.

    On a more positive note, I agree with the contributor who praised Jason Gillespie's work at the Twenty20 finals. I, too, enjoyed his comments and would look forward to hearing more from him in the future.

    Finally, it is good to read that you have secured the services of Simon Hughes. I am sure he will make an excellent and knowledgeable addition to the team: well done.

  • Comment number 80.

    I love the range of views from TMS listeners. I agree boradly with the comments on the blog. It is a shame that Mike Selvey will no longer be part but the rest of the team make up for it.

    I think Alec Stewart has the potential to become a really good summariser, he is easy to listen to. Aggers is probably my favourite radio commentator. His jausts with Geoff Boycott are sometimes priceless.

    I have to disagree with the comments of SKY TV coverage which I really like when I see it. I think Mike Atherton is really informative to listen to and I like Nassar Hussein and Michael Holding as well.

    No one of course comes close to Richie Benaud on TV - he was simply the best.

    Finally the lister that said that as we pay BBC staff their wages they should consult with listeners on changes. A rather banal comment that and totally unpractical. I expect Producers like Adam Mountford to make the decisions that keep the programme at a high standard. This I think is very much the case.

  • Comment number 81.

    Nice blog Adam. Shaun Pollock is shaping well. I love listening to the insights of Geoffrey Boycott. Jonathan as usual is always top class and in good form.

    The Gentleman's Game is an age old institution. And so is BBC. Bringing in new players in the commentary team is a sound way of going about. The illustrious institution has to be sustained with quality performers in the Box as well as on the field.

    Looking forward to your next blog.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 82.

    Very sad to see the departure of Mike Selvey, especially so when one considers the likes of Stewart and Gooch are being retained. Stewart may have a recent past in the England dressing room, but he is clearly (depsite your protestations) too close to some of the players and there is an obvious conflict of interest.

    Fully agree with the positive comments about Jeremy Coney, he was wonderful value all summer. Try and persuade him back regardless of whether the Black Caps are touring.

  • Comment number 83.

    bring back Selvey and Foxy Fowler
    Keep Tufnell as he is hilarious
    Simon Mann is ok
    Stewart, Gooch and Pollock were dreadful-wrong voices, biased opinions etc... If it ain't broke, why fix it?
    I love test match special so it is sad when great voices are fired to accomodate ex super star cricketers. I am much more inetrested in unbiased insight that pro-surrey/essex dull monotones.

    bring back foxy fowler!

  • Comment number 84.

    I agree with the need for a mix of views, my problem is that over the past 5 years we have seen cricket commentaries accross the board become more and more dominated by ex-pros.

    It is good to have them there, offering a players insight into the gam and they do a good job in that role. However at times (and I know this is on sky but the same applies in lesser form to TMS and the BBC soverage in general) we went entire sessions during recent series with only former players.

    The problem with this is that as important as a playes view on the game is it can also be a very lopsided one.

    Sports commentary (and cricket in particular) needs the specialist announcer, honed in a knowledge of the game as a whole that can only be achieved by concentrating on the sport as an outsider. Players get an up close, personal experience but rarely get much knowledge of the game outside of their own cricle, largely due to spending time doing trivil things like actually playing the game instead of watching and compiling.

  • Comment number 85.

    I shall miss Mike Selvey too. But there's no point slagging off Adam Mountford. He's doing what producers have to do: taking tough and sometimes controversial decisions in order to maintain the programme's appeal. The on-air relationship between commentator and pundit is the vital ingredient in TMS's success. Each pairing must combine cricketing wisdom with insight, observation and wit. MS was extremely knowledgeable, sometimes amusing but rather dour on occasions too. Simon Mann has been the most successful of the newer commentators and I've enjoyed the contributions Tuffers and Pollock. Thanks for more than 40 years of wonderful entertainment.

  • Comment number 86.

    I agree that Selvey's insight will be missed and for all his playing achievements I have yet to hear anything from Alec Stewart which suggests that he has much to bring to the party as a summariser.

    As a fellow Yorkie I have to support Sir Geoffrey, though it might be an idea to turn his mic down a bit! Mark Pougatch had the wrong tone for TMS in my view.

    I have listened for 30+ years and of course the programme has to move on. Simon Mann has been a welcome addition and personally I think the core team could probably do with more of a shake-up.

  • Comment number 87.

    Thanks for responding to try and allay our fears over the commentary team. I guess we all have our favourites and you will never please all of us all of the time ...... but the general consensus does seem to be that Geoffrey does go on a bit too much these days .... but blowers, cmj, aggers. and the suprisingly good tuffers interspersed with coney and thorpe must be your key team.?

    Keep up the good work - some of the best radio on the air

  • Comment number 88.

    How often do your commentators announce the score - no I'm serious?Expert opinion is just and only that - what about pigeons,buses etc.etc.-most of the really interested listeners know more than a little about the game's technical and tactical aspects

    Adam Mountford,you have a tough job to do anything for my generation who used to be glued to the set - largely because TV coverage was either not available or too expensive - I can't listen to TMS for any extended period or watch TV without turning off the sound - it's not arrogance - if it's not the music you like it might as well not be there.Style is so important as well as substance - Bumble does the job but even he could become boring on extended use.

    What about using the England Head Coach whilst he still has a job and see how he shapes up?

    The great days of Arlott and Johnson et al have gone and I am sure that the present listeners(especially the ones that Adam's market research people tell him he should please)want the creation of a new ensemble and identity with which they can feel at home.

    Cricket,as Adam says "has evolved" -so has commentary and expert opinion - and not for the better................

  • Comment number 89.

    As an ancient listener of TMS, from the very early third programme days, days I must agree with all your comments vis-a-vis the TMS team. You must have the diversity as I remember many fine points such as when Jonners was broadcasting the Botham test in which 9 10 and Jack held up an end. At some point Jonners described a cover drive by ten as plonking his front foot to square leg and the ball speeding to the cover boundary as an exquisit cover drive. He then went on to suggest that the selectors should keep ten (who had produced a very poor bowling peformance) Where upon TB went all serious and I thought what a **. On reflection it that diversity of comic / serious that really makes the broadcast. In the good old days when the cricket was televised I often used TMS for commentary. (unless Richie Benaud was on)
    wildoldgeoff

  • Comment number 90.

    I didn't even know Mike Selvey had gone! I think all the TMS commentators are excellent, and this summer have particularly enjoyed Phil Tufnell, Mark Pougatch and a female aspect to the match of Alison , Sean Pollack although he started off a bit nervous has become far more confident and funny, and it's also interesting to hear Alec Stewart and other presenters add their own comments on how the game is played with their own experience - I listen when watching the tv with the sound turned down! on my way to and from work and at work, where I don't have access to the tv. Please carry on the good work,I even listen when I'm on nights in the depths of the British winter and you're far away in the sunshine!!

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.

    Good to hear that Simon Hughes will be commentating during the winter

    TMS can only be strengthened by looking for commentators outside the BBC sports dept rather than relying on multi-purpose broadcasters from within

    Even though he moved on, Jack Bannister was a good example of that strategy. There must be more around

    I suggest that the Beeb should start scouring the country for talent rather than just asking the bloke who's sitting at the next desk in the office - or one who's pushy enough to persuade the powers-that-be to give him a go on the TMS team even though he's not up to it

  • Comment number 93.

    Oh dear, since posting my comment I notice that replies to this blog are PRE moderated rather than REACTIVELY moderated

    The BBC must be scared of the backlash!

  • Comment number 94.

    Rest assured SundayParkGeorge that you are not the only one who dispairs at the appearance of G Boycott.

    TMS is the home of reasoned arguement and debate not Boycotts brand of so called analysis.

    I even heard him say that a batsman should pace his innings according to the situation. Bit rich coming from him!

  • Comment number 95.

    Adam, I agree with the points you make and the need for any TMS team to evolve. I have enjoyed the introductions of Mark Pougatch and Phil Tufnell to the team this summer and feel they both contribute to the already excellent blend.

    Unfortunately, I felt for Pougatch at times when Geoff Boycott dismissed his (perfectly reasonable) comments and spoke down to him. Pougatch made an enjoyable debut summer in my opinion, whereas Boycotts undoubted expertise is increasingly becoming hidden between his rants and boasts.

    Id also like to make it known that should Alec Stewart be unavoidable at short notice, Im perfectly willing to step in and talk about how great Matt Prior is for as long as needed.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    Oh, and I highly recommend the article in this months Wisden Cricketer magazine comparing TMS and Skys coverage.

  • Comment number 98.

    While comment from decision makers is always welcome, it would be useful if that comment provided some explanation of decisions made.

    I can't see any explanation or justificationin Mr Mountfords column for getting rid of Mike Selvey.

    I can appreciate that the team has to grow and new people brought in. No reason there to get rid of one of the experienced and obviously much loved voices.

    I am all in favour of trying new "names". Quite right to try Alex Stewart, Graham Gooch and Tufnell to name three. The first hasn't worked and hopefully won't be used again; the jury seems to be out on the second - perhaps extend the trial and the third has been a resounding success.

    If an organisation needs to expand and new people brought in it's rarely a good idea to get rid of the best of the rest. The exception of course is if the organisation is changing direction - and that is why I, and I suspect others, are concerned despite Mr Mountfords fine words.

    But hopefully I'm too cynical. TMS survived the loss of Arlott and Johnson. It improved with the introduction of Agnew and the retirement of Trueman. Tufnell and hopefully Simon Hughes point to more improvent. Stewart is a step back. I suspect that so long as it is still there I will waste too many hours listeing.

    And hopefully TMS loss of Selvey will be the Guardian's gain.

  • Comment number 99.

    I am 31 and therefore young by comparison to many listeners I suppose. I don't care how old, young, experienced at the top level or otherwise people are. I love the different styles of Vic Marks, Geoff Boycott and Phil Tufnell as knowledgable 'pundits' on the game. Mark Pougatch is a good sports commentator and I have nothing against him. But Mike Selvey was a valuable and interesting member of the team and there was no reason to replace him. Alec Stewart is dull by comparison, as, I'm afraid, is Graham Gooch (although he was my favourite player). People should be judged on their performance on the radio and not as a cricketer and there was no reason to cut Selvey's contract. Shame on you.

  • Comment number 100.

    Oh, and I forgot to say that Alison Mitchell deserves a much fuller run in the commentary box - she is much more interesting to listen to than Alec Stewart - she shouldn't be wasted on the boundary.

    And just for the record, Aggers, CMJ, Blowers (despite his mixing up of names) etc are the very soul of TMS... Tufnell has been exceptional in providing real insight into the game - he is a successful example of bringing in a modern voice - so many people realise he is good at radio. There is no need to force more new names on us - we are not stupid. We want quality regardless of where it comes from. Stewart isn't interesting! Is that really so hard to understand? Just listen to the radio!!! And although Boycott can be a bit repetitive, he is very good when giving his opinion for the first time on any matter.

 

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