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Ever since my colleague Henry Blofeld announced he would be hanging up the Test Match Special microphone at the end of the summer, there have been so many wonderful tributes.
There will be even more now he has finally called his last action from the commentary box.
There is a common theme at the heart of the warm words, stories and anecdotes: ‘our’ Blowers is unique.
Special broadcasters like Henry cannot be created or coached – they just happen naturally.
He is, as everyone knows, a larger than life character who helped to create a legacy that marks out TMS as the envy of the broadcast world – both from within and outside the sport.
Indeed, it was Henry who imparted some of the best advice I have ever received.
I bumped into him on the first morning of my first Test as the cricket correspondent of the BBC. His advice was simple: be yourself. That’s certainly what he is on air.
‘He brought a PG Wodehouse flavour’
Henry makes every ball sound like an event, describing it with such energy, vividness and a wonderful use of language.
He also realises the importance of going beyond the narrow perspective of what is happening in the middle, bringing a PG Wodehouse flavour to proceedings.
I can always tell when Henry is getting excited about play because his right leg will bounce up and down like a piston.
He brings pizzazz to the commentary box, where everyone has their role. I know when I’m sat alongside Henry that the colourful, eccentric and random side of things is taken care of.
He is one of a handful of people – the others being Brian Johnston, John Arlott, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Fred Trueman, Trevor Bailey and Peter Baxter – who made TMS what it is today.
‘Blowers’ Italian dress sense’
Wherever I go, people always want to talk to me about Henry. People are just fascinated by him.
And he has changed in some respects.
For example, he used to dress rather traditionally with a jacket and bow tie. You would never say he was necessarily smart – but always traditional.
Then he married an Italian lady called Valeria and all of a sudden, this radiant creature would turn up on the morning of the match wearing some shocking colours – yellow, purple, blue, green.
One thing which has never changed, however, is his insatiable appetite for his work – whether that is his theatre shows, writing books, public speaking or writing for newspapers.
It is probably only now that he has finally taken a step back and looked at things.
The consummate professional
I have so many fond memories of Henry.
Back in 1998, a Test in Jamaica was abandoned because of a dangerous pitch. I knew I was going to be busy but I was absolutely desperate for the toilet.
There was one toilet in the whole commentary box and I burst into the room, only to be faced with Henry delivering an elaborate report over the phone to a radio station.
I had no choice – I had to go to the toilet, despite Henry being in full flow. Even when I pulled the chain, he did not break stride in his delivery.
It was typical Henry. Being the extraordinary man that he is, he just carried on.
I have to admit that we often liked to play childish tricks on Henry.
I remember once sending him a fax from my laptop at the back of the commentary box. I ripped off the fax and handed it to Henry.
On letter-headed paper for a carpet company which didn’t exist I wrote something along the lines of: “Dear Mr Blofeld, we think you are the best commentator on the radio, we always listen to you on the shop floor and if you mention us on air we’ll send you a free carpet.”
Henry enthusiastically read out the message and put the paper in his jacket pocket, delighted he was to get a new carpet no doubt.
Half an hour later, I sent another fax from Smith’s Carpets’ equally fictitious rival, Jones’s Carpets: “Dear Mr Blofeld… we do not appreciate you blatantly plugging our rivals on air. Give us equal exposure or we’ll be writing to the director general.”
His face was a picture. And he never did get that free carpet.
Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport’s Marc Higginson.
A version of this article was originally published on 23 June 2017.
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