A John Arlott Century

With no disrespect at all to the current presenters of Test Match Special, I don’t think listening to cricket on the radio has been quite the same since September 2nd 1980, the day that John Arlott gave his last commentary:

This brief post is just to point out that John Arlott was born on 25th February 1914, i.e. one hundred years ago today. He died in 1991 at his home in Alderney, but is remembered fondly not only for his wonderful gift for evocative descriptions of cricket, but for the warmth and humanity that shone through in his commentaries.

7 Responses to “A John Arlott Century”

  1. My favourite Arlott commentary is his description of a “Freaker” invading Lords during the Ashes Test in 1975. “….this may be his last public appearance, but what a splendid one…..”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVro7oZP-vI

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    I remember that moment. But I was sorry to find that, on reading Arlott’s autobiography Basingstoke Boy, warmth and humanity did not shine through at all. He described how he dumped his wife for his secretary/mistress by saying that it dawned on him “the matter needed to be tidied up”, a phrase of such coldness that it made me shudder given the human implications. And his son felt strongly enough to warn that the eulogies soon after his death by people who knew only the public side of him were not paralleled by the private side.

    As a cricket commentator, though, he was superb. I remember one match on TV from Trent Bridge in (I’d estimate) the early 1970s, at which it began to rain. After the commentators had said all that they could and it continued to rain, the BBC were going to switch to their then standard “it’s raining” test card, but Arlott instructed the cameraman to pan round the ground over a period of 40 minutes, during which he spoke about every stand in the ground that came into view, and fine batsmen of the past who had hit toward it. He did not fail to mention Parr’s Tree, which George Parr was fond of peppering with sixes and which I remember well before it had to be felled. I have since heard other commentators refer to this broadcast in legendary terms and I concur with their opinion. I only heard it once – in real time – and I wonder if it has been preserved?

    • telescoper Says:

      Well, maybe his radio persona wasn’t the real thing, but he was unfailingly generous to both sides when commenting on cricket at least.

      There’s also the famous story of him being required to a complete a form in order to pass through the immigration controls to enter South Africa. Next to “RACE:” he wrote “Human”…

  3. An important part of raising my political awareness as a raw adolescent was the D’Oliveira affair and, not only was John Arlott fiercely opposed to the SA tour but he was also partly responsible for D’Oliveira’s arrival in the UK in the first place, responding to the famous letter in green ink. I once recall him (JA) being interviewd and saying that he had been moved to tears by D’Oliveira playing for England and standing up to the worst that Wes Hall and Charlie Griffiths could throw at him literally in the latter’s case, allegedly.) He also said that he had the best jobs in the world, being paid to drink wine and watch cricket.

    Above all, a human being.

  4. I remeber his refusing to commentate on the South African cricket tour as triggering my first venture into politcs – I had never written to the newspapers before but a letter supporting his principled stance was my first publication.

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