By Calvin Palmer
A voice from my youth was cruelly silenced this morning when former England cricketer and radio broadcaster Tevor Bailey died in a fire at his home. He was 87.
Bailey, an all-rounder for Essex, was still playing first-class cricket when I was a boy. He retired in 1967 and soon joined a British institution, the commentary team on BBC Radio 3’s Test Match Special.
Test Matches, when England took on the other cricket-playing nations of the world, were followed with almost religious fervor by cricket fans. In the 1960s, TV coverage was in its infancy and you were lucky if you saw a couple of hours a day. And I used to hate it when, during Wimbledon fortnight, the cricket coverage was shared with tennis.
But the Radio 3 programme covered every ball of every day’s play, as well as the interludes in between, and featured some of the best voices to grace the airwaves, men such as John Arlott, EW Swanton, Don Mosey, Norman Yardley and Alan Gibson.
Fans used to send in cakes for the commentary team. Brian Johnston was famous for posing a question to one of the pundits just as they had taken a mouthful of cake. I can well remember Trevor Bailey being one of the victims and hastily swallowing the morsel in order to reply.
Test Match Special became renowned for its public schoolboy mentality and jolly japes. It was not until Fred Trueman joined the commentary team that it gained a bit of working-class grit. In fact, Bailey and Trueman formed an entertaining an endearing partnership that lasted 26 years. Both men did not mince their words when broadcasting, unlike the sycophants that grace TV commentary boxes the world over and in any sport you care to name.
Bailey and Trueman were of the old school and told it like it was. If it was good, they gave deserved praise; if it was bad, they were among the harshest of critics. And, to my mind, that is the way it should always be.