- Post date:
- Monday, 2 July 2018
Henry Blofeld’s colourful cricket commentary has kept fans of the game informed and entertained for nearly half a century. Henry spoke to Connect about losing his sight and his new autobiography, “Over and Out: My Innings of a Lifetime with Test Match Special”.
The man known familiarly as “Blowers” began his long career as a commentator on the BBC’s Test Match Special (TMS) in 1972, a role he only retired from last year.
His conversational style of commentary helped TMS listeners, including many blind and partially sighted cricket lovers, feel like they were watching the match in Henry’s friendly company.
“I always wanted to try and make people feel they were actually in the commentary box with me. I think the greatest compliment a radio broadcaster can ever be paid is when people say you made them feel like they were there,” Henry says.
Much of Henry’s success as a commentator came down to his bubbly personality and ability to make cricket enjoyable for everyone.
“You’ve got to try and talk about something that’s going to be of interest, and gets the viewer leaning forward in their seat. If you just stick to the cricket, then I think it can become a little bit boring.
“I’ve always tried to tell people what I can see and this brings into play all the things people laugh at. If I see buses and endless pigeons coming round the ground, that’s part of the scene.”
For anyone who has followed Blowers’ career on the radio, on stage in his one-man theatre shows, or in the books he has penned, you could be forgiven for thinking you knew everything there is to know about the legend behind TMS.
But his latest title, Over and Out, contains unheard memories, including his experiences of travelling to overseas matches, meeting and interviewing cricket-loving celebrities and entertaining stories of the different characters he’s commentated alongside.
“I wanted to write a light book that explained what fun the program was to work on,” Henry says.
But as well as talking about his career highs, Henry uses Over and Out to discuss his decision to retire from TMS last year.
“There were several reasons I finished; I’m nearly 100, good heavens. The older you get, I think it becomes harder, and when something becomes harder, it becomes rather less fun.
“I think commentary is done differently too. I explain I got less chance to describe things, which is perhaps the only thing I’m any good at.”
Henry also touches on the fact that his eyesight is “perfectly good” in his left eye, but with macular degeneration in his right, he felt it was not going to get better.
In 2016, midway through a Test match in India, Henry experienced problems with his vision. Later, he wrote in The Guardian newspaper, that as he watched on, “everything went blank. I could see nothing”.
During the match, he continued his commentary but had to be corrected from the summariser’s chair by Sunny Gavaskar, a former Indian international cricketer, after he incorrectly guessed the outcome of a series of balls.
“The memory of that moment has never left me. It was my worst experience at the microphone”, Henry wrote in The Guardian.
“I suddenly realised, you’ve done it once, it’s no big deal, but if you do it again, it becomes a bigger deal.
“In the end I thought, let’s go when everyone is going to say, ‘why are you going?’ rather than hang on until when they say, ‘why the hell haven’t you gone?’”
As well as enjoying his anecdotes, readers will find it difficult not to smile at the stories as Henry’s unmistakeable voice narrates the memoir.
“My dear old thing, it’s a great joy for me, talking to you,” Henry says finishing the interview with his affectionate trademark expression.
You can enjoy Over and Out as a Talking Book (TB 24452) from the RNIB Library where you can also find Henry’s other titles.
For more book news, reviews and author interviews, listen to Read On, RNIB Connect Radio’s weekly show on Fridays at 1pm.