I have fond memories of Test Cricket played between England and Australia long before the days of television. When Test matches started in England during the Australian winter we tuned into the radio at around 7.15pm to catch the dreary tones of John Arlott wafting across the airwaves with considerable interference, but with typical Arlott clarity and humour.
Once at a match in Manchester at the famous Trent Bridge Oval during a rain-interrupted session, Arlott had to keep the commentary going despite play being abandoned. He just talked non-stop, recounting the story of a schoolmaster in London who gave his students an essay competition. The winner to receive a one week holiday in Manchester. The runner-up a two week holiday in Manchester.
But Arlott liked to tease the Aussie listeners. He used to come on air saying: “We welcome Australian listeners with the news that England won the toss and sent in the Australians to bat. The score is now Two for None.”
What a scare! In Australia it is customary to say None for Two, meaning no wickets had fallen and two runs scored, but in England they say it back-to-front. Arlott was a great commentator. He brought cricket to life, even without television.
One Day cricket is a reasonably modern phenomenon. It was designed to bring life back into cricket when audiences throughout the cricketing world were starting to taper off. It achieved more success than one could imagine. It actually, and thankfully, revitalised Test Cricket.
But the old traditions of Test Cricket still remain. Boxing Day, 26th December, in Melbourne for the start of the Third Test with a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground. What a roar when England lost a wicket. Or in Brisbane for the First Test when a customary thunderstorm erupted and sent the players scurrying from the field. And who can ever forget the famed Bodyline series in 1936 which threatened to destroy the game forever.
One day cricket has changed all the past traditions. Now teams compete from all over the world. Players are paid a fortune. Yet, there’s something missing from the game. Time has moved on. People want to be entertained with action-packed cricket. It’s a fast-moving world in which we live. Everything is geared to high volume and mass participation. Obviously, that’s what the advertisers demand.
But that distinctive Arlott brand of banter is sadly lacking.