TMS changes explained
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.
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.