Henry Calthorpe Blofeld is without doubt one of cricket’s most marvellous characters. That pompous, fruity, old Etonian voice of the mad-as-a-hatter Test Match Special (TMS) radio commentator has been well known and loved by cricket followers across the globe for over 30 years. But it has become obvious in recent cricket seasons that the BBC is choosing to use the old school voice of Blowers less and less.
Blofeld fitted in well alongside the old TMS legends of Brian Johnson and John Arlott but the eccentric old chatterbox will be 70 next year and it is quite clear that he is being slowly phased out of the radio box against his will.
Famous for his flowery descriptions of pigeons, buses, flags, dirigibles and dustbins, Blowers certainly paints the picture in a way that no other cricket commentator does anymore. And while not everyone is mad about the unconventional old toff, English Test match cricket just isn’t the same without him.
From Norfolk gentry stock, Blofeld did not play for England but he excelled as a school cricketer. He was the Eton captain and he scored a hundred at Lord’s for the Public Schools against the Combined Services in the day when that kind of fixture received 800 words in the Times newspaper. Sadly, Henry’s career was cut short by a dreadful incident whereby he was run over by a bus and suffered extensive head injuries.
He then tried his hand at merchant banking but he tired of that quickly and after dangerously flirting with the idea of a career in the wine industry he settled into cricket journalism. And he has been in the writing and talking game ever since.
Blofeld has his fair share of critics. Some can’t stand his ceaseless descriptions of irrelevant activity and others are tired of his propensity to talk utter nonsense. He is easily muddled and on this tour alone has called South Africa both New Zealand and India. He once called Flintoff Botham, without noticing his mistake and at the Headingley Test he said Hashish Amla instead of Hashim Amla. At Edbaston he called him Hamish!
He once remarked that Sidebottom reminded him of Friar Tuck. Vic Marks was on air with him and pointed out that Friar Tuck was bald and fat while Sidebottom is slim and hairy and so he could not see the resemblance. At Headingley he described the fast bowler as medieval looking and I think that is spot-on, so he gets the odd one right!
I have done a lot of asking around to determine Blofeld’s popularity and he definitely seems to be one of those types that people either love or don’t. Some strong words against the old boy were uttered in the press box but generally the average English cricket follower falls into the first category.
Blofeld and the TMS team are often sent cakes and even the Queen once presented them with a cake at Lord’s in recognition of their efforts. Naturally, cakes are another never-ending topic for discussion. In this series Blofeld commentated on the second and third Test matches. I am missing him at the fourth.
This article appeared on Cricket365 during South Africa’s Test tour of England in 2008.