‘Day I knew my time at the mic was up’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Cricket -

Idon’t think it had ever re­ally oc­curred to me that one day I would have to re­tire from Test Match Spe­cial. Although I was 77, I was still do­ing five or six Test matches a year – three or four at home and a cou­ple on tour. I was get­ting by, I like to think, and my in­abil­ity to de­ter­mine, with any­thing ap­proach­ing ac­cu­racy, the name of the fielder at third man had, I hope, be­come more of a joke than any­thing else.

Then, in De­cem­ber 2016, I went to In­dia to com­men­tate for TMS on the Tests in Bom­bay and Madras. In both, Eng­land lost their last five sec­ond-in­nings wick­ets for 16 and were mas­sively beaten. I would like to think my com­men­tary was a touch surer than Eng­land’s bat­ting, but maybe not by much.

On Dec 20, the fourth and, as it hap­pened, fi­nal day in Madras, I was on the air when Eng­land’s bats­men seemed al­most to throw their hands in. A slog drive from Moeen Ali off Ravi Jadeja had ended up in Ravi Ash­win’s hands at deep mid-off. I got that right. Liam Daw­son, in his first Test, was now fac­ing leg-spin­ner Amit Mishra. We were at the bowler’s end and Mishra was run­ning away from us. For Daw­son, he had about five men round the bat, in­clud­ing a short mid-off and a short ex­tra cover. He ran in to bowl, his arm came over and I saw the ball leave his hand and Daw­son start to shuffle across his stumps. Then, for a mo­ment I shall never for­get, ev­ery­thing went blank. I could see noth­ing, although the crowd were cheer­ing their heads off, which told me a wicket had fallen. When my vi­sion cleared, I saw Daw­son tak­ing his first step to­wards the pavil­ion and the close field­ers on the off side jump­ing about in cel­e­bra­tion.

I took a punt: “And Daw­son has been caught there at short ex­tra.”

Sunny Gavaskar, sit­ting be­side me in the sum­mariser’s chair, now en­tered the con­ver­sa­tion: “No, Henry, he was bowled.”

Get out of that one. I strug­gled on but it must have sounded dread­ful. The mem­ory of that mo­ment has never left me. It was my worst ex­pe­ri­ence at the mi­cro­phone.

An eye spe­cial­ist told me later there is a log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion for what hap­pened and it was a chance in a mil­lion. Which was lit­tle help. The in­ci­dent played on my mind re­lent­lessly. Then, in the mid­dle of the night, just as the Eng­land sea­son was be­gin­ning in April 2017, I sud­denly re­alised the time had come. As the prob­lem had hap­pened to me once, it could ob­vi­ously hap­pen again, and at my age things like that do not get bet­ter; they only get worse. I did not want to make a fool of my­self and, even more im­por­tant, I did not want the pro­gramme re­spon­si­ble for the won­der­ful life I have led to be made to look stupid too.

Blind spot: Henry Blofeld con­sulted an eye spe­cial­ist af­ter his vi­sion went blank just as Eng­land’s Liam Daw­son was bowled in Madras (left), and even­tu­ally de­cided it was time to re­tire

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