Monday, September 03, 2007

John Arlott's Sublime Voice

Today 27 years ago during the Centenary Test, John Arlott hung up his vocal cords for the last time.

As the rain-hit Centenary Test petered out at Lord's, Australia's Kim Hughes became only the third man to bat on all five days of a Test match. He made 117 and 84. But the day was probably more memorable for John Arlott's final stint behind the microphone. As the famous commentator ended his long career with the BBC's Test Match Special, play stopped as the whole ground stood to applaud him.

His voice is the one that I most associated with cricket commentary, although Richie Benaud comes close. He was television and John Arlott was radio. When I grew up, cricket was on crackly Radio Three, which I used to listen to on the large cabinet radio, having to retune slightly very regularly as the signal came and went.

John Arlott was a master of using silence to make his point. He was never as excitable and toffy as Henry Blofeld. My wife made me turn off the radio when he was commentating during the 2005 Ashes. Too grating for an Aussie ear.

Somewhat different from this gentleman, who is the one I associate with Rugby commentary from when I was growing up. I doubt that even John Arlott could have found a way to string an octopus and multiple haggises into one sentence.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I remember John Arlott very well - that lovely accent. And he could talk about wine and other subjects as well. He spoke most movingly about the death of his son.

jmb said...

When I was growing up it was before TV in Australia. (We got our first TV just before I left in 1960.) So I spent hours listening to the cricket commentary on the radio. The fact that they kept our interest with no visuals and no incessant talking about statistics, which they now have at their fingertips via computer, is amazing.

Colin Campbell said...

And British cricket commentators have the added burden of finding things to discuss during all those rain delays. They really are masters of the art of conversation and description.

Liz said...

Bill Maclaren. I was thinking of him when I was reading your post. Not only was his voice so wonderful, he was unbiased, and knew interesting homely facts. He is missed in the world of rugby today. The voice of my growing up.

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