A Middlesex Watcher
Today, social media has been abuzz with various items about radio commentary. Let us pass over the news that the BBC has, again, lost commentary rights for overseas Tests to TalkSPORT Radio. The cash-strapped West Indies Cricket Board, for which a tour by England means lots of wealthy, visiting fans, full stands, a windfall for hotels and a much-needed injection of foreign exchange, was always going to take the highest offer and, if that was not BBC’s Test Match Special, quality of product would not come into it. No, the first item in question was a cricket A-Z that defined “L is for local” and went on to mention that Martin Emmerson is “never knowingly unbiased”. Martin, for some reason, took exception to this.
This is an old saw. There is a group of commentators who one of their colleagues has occasionally (“occasionally”, as in “a few times each session of play”) refers to as “the one-eyed brigade”. Dear old DT has got that wrong – as usual. One of the glories of the county commentaries is the fact that there is none of this TMS faux impartiality. Each of the commentators who follow their team around, day after day through the season, season after season, is a fan just as fanatical as any of their listeners. Kevin Hand admits that, in his early years, he even got too close to the team and his hero-worship showed up in the commentary. Kev really thought that his heroes were invincible and to watch them struggle so desperately, as they did in 2006, 2009 and, especially, 2010, was very hard for him. Long-time listeners will swear that more than once there was a catch in his voice and he genuinely seemed on the verge of tears when watching failure. Marty is a proud Sunderlander. He makes no secret of the fact that the Roker Riviera is heaven on Earth, chunters that it is “grim down south” (he takes exception to the idea that the weather is too bad for cricket “oop norf” and delights in every flood, storm, or cold snap down in the frozen south), follows local non-league football with passion and loves Durham cricket with unquestioning devotion. Marty has various things clear and one is that Yorkshire is definitely not in the north but, on a good day, when Durham are playing well and he is feeling charitable, he may grudgingly accept that Manchester is in the north and possibly even Middlesborough too.
For one glorious session of play in 2011, I was able to share commentary on Durham v Nottinghamshire with Martin Emmerson and Dave Bracegirdle, who are always squabbling on Twitter like an old married couple. We were in the huge TMS box at Chester-le-Street with its superb view of this lovely ground. There is no better commentary pairing in County cricket: they bounce off each other like the two Ronnies or Morecambe and Wise. Part of the fun of listening to them is that they are so passionate about their respective sides, but never one-eyed: they both appreciate good cricket, even when their own side is on the wrong side of it and they are unquestionably the best pairing to listen to if you just want to enjoy the game and do not care about the result.
One of the innovations about county commentary when it was extended to all eighteen First Class sides – and now, even to some Minor Counties games – is the fact that the commentary is set up with a home commentator, a visiting commentator and a neutral “third voice”. It is fine for Marty, or Kev, or the Girdler, or Bob Hunt to gush about their own side because you will also hear the other side of the story and you will hear too that third voice who has the specific mission to be neutral and to allow the other two commentators to show their true feelings. It is one of the great strengths of the commentary.
So, what is the great news of Kev this week: a piece of news that will have social media buzzing during the Derbyshire game? There are a number of Middlesex fans – some one suspects are Kevin Hand fans in reality – who have been with him since he started (“Tony in Twickenham”, “Derek in Hurstpierpoint”, “Texas Tom”, PJ Meade and yours truly may just occasionally have been mentioned by Kev on commentary, along with a few others – it was Texas Tom who suggested that Kev should have his own chat show called, “Speak to the Hand”). Today, ZK Goh, another familiar name, presented his Kevin Hand Middlesex Commentary Bingo. Not a mention of rhubarb in it, but some very sharp observation from someone who has been a long-term listener.
So, here it is:
Fans have pointed out that there is no mention of promotion for Middlesex and, of course, in the first session of play in the Northants game, he must have said: “promotion is a bare minimum for Middlesex this season” at least half a dozen times. Kev, you never learn! That kind of prediction almost always ends in tears.
So, print out your cards – versions for various other commentators will, no doubt, follow – put on Kev’s commentary and see how quickly you can shout “HOUSE!!!!” I doubt that it will take long.
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