Friday, 11 February 2011

'And after Trevor Bailey...'

The death of Trevor Bailey is another disconnect from the past. While most of the obituaries [rightly] focused on his playing career, to later generations like mine Bailey was known firstly as a voice on TMS. He appeared, with Fred Trueman, as one of the expert summarisers, men who sat alongside the commentators and provided the earthy insight of the trenches - Trueman the autodidact philosopher king, regally dismissive of flannel and Southern nonsense; Bailey the flint-hearted pro with an unexpected aesthetic eye.

Henry Blofeld gave a radio tribute this week, remembering how easily Bailey had slapped him into place early in his TMS career: Blofeld had said - hyperbolically by the standards of the mid-70s - that Greg Chappell had just provided an unmatchable example of an off drive. 'Greg Chappell of course,' sniffed Bailey, 'is better-known for the on drive...'

Both Trueman and Bailey were ribbed back by the commentators, Trueman for his tendency to rose-tint the past [especially any aspect of it that involved him], and Bailey for his legendary ability to remain at the crease almost runless for many hours at a time. It offered an interesting distinction between the pair. Fred didn't much like any challenge, however light-hearted, to his ability, whereas Bailey would chuckle happily at the same, and rejoiced in his nickname of 'The Boil'.

What we have lost, apart from a man who, even at 87 went before his time in awful circumstances, is that balance between pro broadcasters and pro players. TMS clearly delineated between them: the broadcasters commentated and the pros offered analysis and opinion. Bailey was not expected to describe Botham, as Arlott unforgettably did, as 'coming in from the Kirkstall Lane end like a shire horse cresting the breeze', just as Arlott wasn't obliged to hold forth on facing Wes Hall.

Some cricketers have been able to do it, Richie Benaud their nonpareil, but today, especially on television, all other talents have been lost. A richness has gone from the media surrounding the game. Arlott and Bailey would have very different careers today.

7 comments:

Brit said...

RIP Boil.

Arlott really was a one-off though, wasn't he? CMJ and Aggers are more eloquent than poetic.

Let's not despair too much - cricket is at least blessed with intelligent ex-pros. Compare with football: you really could walk into any pub in the land, chuck a handful of marbles and hit six blokes better able to give a worthwhile analysis of a game than Alan Shearer.

The most superficial cricket telly analysts (Beefy and Bumble) are at least able to string sentences together and pronounce words of three syllables. Atherton and Hussein are pretty compelling I find, always say something interesting (esp the former). I foresee Strauss being similarly good (let's just hope they never give Flintoff a gig in the 'Ian Wright' role).

Different Shades said...

Excellent as usual, OB. I felt the same, for the same reasons.

The Old Batsman said...

Maybe what's missing though is that sense that Arlott and Johnson [and Benaud, who trained as a journo] had that they've done something other than played cricket in their lives - oddly Botham sometimes seems to have a bit of that...

Brit said...

Yes that's true. And of course, Botham has...

John said...

RIP Trevor Bailey.

I remember him on TMS in about 1975 doing his end-of-over summary and and then noting the arrival at the centre of a naked intruder "It's a, er, FREAKER.." he spluttered, and was corrected by Bill Frindall.

I had the feeling that, at the time he knew perfectly well what a "streaker" was, but wasn't going to admit it.

Tim Newman said...

The Australian commentary during the last Ashes was woeful, with the exception of Benaud. Their vocabulary was so limited that the same words and phrases were being used every few minutes, and the likes of Taylor, Warne, Slater, and Healy seemed more interested in the glory days of a decade ago than the current game.

'Yeah Tubbs, you remember when you and Booney went out and smashed some runs in Headingly in 1991 and Warney bowled a blinder.'

Erm, right. The silly nicknames aside, how about some informative commentary on the current match, of which an awful lot can surely be said? Woeful.

cost per head said...

after Trevor Bailey, well I think that nothing that big as Trevor Bailey himself has happened and I doubt that someone will be like him