Monday, May 11, 2009


The 2009 “Ashes” summer opened for me with a most unexpected early skirmish. Mrs B and I were en route to the launch party for Peter “Test Match Special” Baxter’s charming new book of reminiscences “Inside the Box”. We were trying to find the hidden entrance to the Lord’s adjacent Danubius hotel when I was aware that someone else was similarly lost and confused. “Are you looking for the Baxter bash?” I said cordially to the chap. “Yes. Round the corner I think” he replied “I’m Adam Mountford by the way”. Mountford (pictured), as TMS fans will be aware, took over as Producer of the programme from Baxter in 2008. Now in my occasional scribblings about the great cricket institution that is Test Match Special I have, I admit, been less than polite about the direction in which it has sailed under Mountford’s tyro stewardship. But, as far as I can recall, I have never directly abused or insulted said Adam in any way. So imagine my surprise when after I had introduced myself Mountford took a deep breath and launched into an unprovoked verbal assault on me and my scribblings as we continued to navigate our way towards the hotel entrance. The essence of Mountford’s accusations was that I should be more sensitive to the feelings of those that I write about – presumably starting with him!

Thoughts along the lines of Harry Truman’s “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” spring to mind for although I am still learning my craft as a sports writer one thing that I have learned is that it is a pretty rough profession at times. Michael Henderson referred to Radio 5 Live in a recent article in The Guardian as “Radio Halfwit” and described comments on a Test match by one of that channel’s presenters as being of “…mind-boggling stupidity from the kind of folk who gave the station its reputation.” Now Mr Mountford hails from Radio 5 and is overseeing the integration of TMS into Radio 5’s style – a process regarded by Peter Baxter and most of the traditional TMS team with horror. As Baxter says in his book TMS is popular “…precisely because it did not sound like the Rest of Radio 5”.One of the TMS veterans told me at the book launch that Mountford is only doing what his masters have told him to do - although this has led to accusations that the programme is dumbing down. Few TMS aficionados welcome this process and you can be quite sure that the old TMS team are appalled by any suggestion that TMS needs to move down market - I have heard Henry Blofeld close to apoplexy at the thought as you can imagine.

My criticisms of the Mountford approach to Test Match Special are far from a lone voice in the wilderness so quite why he harangued me so strongly I’m not sure. I told him in response that many of us feel that he is in danger of ****ing up TMS and that that would be a disgrace. We then parted rather roughly and steered clear of one another for the rest of the evening. When I told one TMS stalwart what had happened he suggested that Adam Mountford was not over-burdened with social skills. Hmmm!

If I have never wittingly personalised an attack on Mountford the same perhaps might not be true of all my writings on the ECB Chairman Giles Clarke – a bĂȘte noire of many (all?) of us who really care about England cricket. Clarke was also at the Baxter book event and perhaps emboldened by a glass or two of Veuve Clicquot I introduced myself to him - “I’m afraid I have been rather rude about you in my writings” I said to him by way of introduction. “That’s alright”, he said, with what I think was a smile – he was perfectly affable to me. Clarke has a reputation for not always being the most charming man in the room but he treated me perfectly courteously and whilst I cannot claim that he is my new best friend I think that, as Blowers might say, I have more chance (albeit slim) of being on his Christmas Card list then I do of being on the prickly Mr Mountford’s!