ico-h1 CRICKET BOOKS

Over and Out

Published: 2017
Pages: 304
Author: Blofeld, Henry
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Rating: 4 stars

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I felt quite melancholy after reading the first few words of this book, and even a little naïve. The title should have provided a clue that Henry Blofeld had retired as a commentator from TMS (Test Match Special).

Despite being a member of cricket forums and a number of Facebook cricket pages this news had somehow escaped me in Australia. At least in England, Blofeld received the acknowledgement that his outstanding career deserved. Interviews up and down the country, plus a lap of honour and an opportunity to ring the bell at Lord’s were some of the highlights. There was also a special nod to Blofeld’s preoccupation with the peripheries at a cricket ground when the Nottingham City Council named a bus after him.

I learned all of this from Over and Out – which is an autobiography of sorts but focuses more on Blofeld’s media career than his personal life. So no real childhood or intimate relationship details, which considering he only released a full autobiography, Squeezing The Orange, in 2013, is understandable.

We meet all of the great commentators from Blofeld’s career, including John Arlott, Brian Johnston, Alan McGilvray, Freddie Truman and Christopher Martin-Jenkins. Somehow, and despite having authored many books on cricket, Blofeld manages to find a few new anecdotes in relation to these larger than life personalities. To Blofeld’s credit, even when he retells a story he doesn’t simply copy and paste from previous publications, he performs a complete rewrite which delivers a fresh perspective.

There are also stories on the new cast of TMS. Most of these will be fresh to the majority of readers. As with everything Blofeld is involved in the tales all sound both entertaining and exciting. Blofeld relates a few occasions where he clashed with peers or upset the PC crowd. His hurt and disappointment in these rare moments is conveyed with a sense of pathos.

Apart from personalities from his media career, Blofeld relates some of his favourite Test matches. These include the miracle of Headingley in 1981 and Stuart Broad’s destructive spell against Australia in 2015. He adds that Broad in full flight was just about his favourite player to commentate on.

Blofeld does hint that there is now a push for conformity in the TMS commentary box and that he does not quite fit. You can imagine ‘Blowers’ would be the one in a busy service line who would produce cash rather than the credit card everyone else was compliantly tapping with. He would politely wait for his change, oblivious to the raised eyes of the cashier or the shaking heads of those behind him in the line.

You just hope that someone in the queue would recognise that ‘Blowers’ was an individual and would shout – to paraphrase Rugby caller Chris ‘Buddha’ Handy – “go you dear old thing”.

It’s great to know that Henry Blofeld did things his own way. His whole life to date sounds great fun, and any cricket fan would love to have enjoyed even a few of Blofeld’s cricketing adventures. Thankfully you can read about them all in Over and Out, which is thoroughly recommended.

 

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