S.N. Don's blog
50 Years Ago
Sometimes it feels like that! My first cricket recollections would have been on an old black and white TV back in 1971. The school summer holidays were in full swing and for some reason I can vividly remember watching Geoff Arnold steaming in to bowl at The Oval. One TV camera positioned at the Pavilion End which rendered any LBW appeal from the Vauxhall End sheer guesswork. I can’t remember who England were playing and I can’t really be that bothered to look it up. As it stands, I am already 24 hours late with this month’s article.
1971 gave me Peter West as the main presenter before Richie Benaud took on that particular mantle. Jim Laker may well have been commentating back then as was Ted Dexter – possibly. Thing is, I can’t honestly remember. All I can recall was Geoff Arnold.
But what was the coverage like back in the days of Ted Heath, three day weeks and Nationwide? There was BBC1 and BBC2 plus ITV. If there was cricket on the BBC, it invariably clashed with Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and the Open Championship. You would get to watch 15-20 minutes of play and then go hot footing it to Ascot for some ridiculous nonsense involving Lester Piggott and Julian Wilson. I can strongly recommend watching horse racing, in fog, on a black and white tv.
Back to the cricket. There would be either two three-test series or a single five match series. The players that stuck in the memory from the 1970s would turn out to be some of the best to have played. Sunil Gavaskar, Sadiq and Mushtaq Mohammed, Imran Khan, Derryck Murray, Glenn Turner. There was no representation from Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. South Africa were banned – and rightly so. It was either the West Indies, Pakistan, India, New Zealand and there was another one that I can’t quite remember. And it was Test Cricket. Occasionally there would be a 55 or 60 over game but in the main, it was 5 day, Test Match Cricket.
After each Test Match that ended on a Tuesday (Sunday was a rest day), there would have been either a 55 over or 60 over fixture; Benson & Hedges Cup and Gillette Cup respectively. The last few overs of each innings had the scene of 9 players in the deep all saving boundaries. Commentary was much more subtle. There would invariably be a current England Test cricketer being a guest summariser thus giving the viewer what could have been invaluable insights. The commentators only said something when something needed to be said.
There used to be an unwritten challenge that all batsmen would take up and that was to see who could score a thousand runs in May. I think Glenn Turner may have been the last to achieve that in the early 70s. Nowadays, it’s a major achievement for a batsman to score a thousand runs in a season.
And you had uncovered pitches!