Henry Blofeld: Wikis

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Henry Blofeld
Personal information
Full name Henry Calthorpe Blofeld
Born 23 September 1939 (1939-09-23) (age 70)
Hoveton Home Farm, Norfolk, England
Nickname Blowers
Batting style Right-handed
Role Wicket-keeper, commentator
Domestic team information
Years Team
1958–1959 Cambridge University
1965 Norfolk
First-class debut 7 May 1958 Cambridge University v Kent
Last First-class 11 June 1960 CU v Free Foresters
Only List A 1 May 1965Norfolk v Hampshire
Career statistics
Competition First-class List A
Matches 17 1
Runs scored 758 60
Batting average 24.45 60.00
100s/50s 1/2 0/1
Top score 138 60
Balls bowled 18 0
Wickets 0
Bowling average
5 wickets in innings
10 wickets in match
Best bowling
Catches/stumpings 11/– 0/–
Source: CricketArchive, 14 May 2008

Henry Calthorpe Blofeld (born at Hoveton Home Farm in Norfolk on 23 September 1939) (known as Blowers, thanks to the late Brian Johnston) is a sports journalist. He is best known as a cricket commentator for Test Match Special on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.

Blofeld had an exceptional career as a schoolboy cricketer, cut short by injury. Since then, he has created a reputation as a commentator with an accent and usage of English commensurate with his background as an Old Etonian. He also writes on cricket.

Contents

Early life and cricket career

Blofeld's family were landowners in Norfolk. He was the youngest of three siblings. His older brother, Sir John Blofeld, became a High Court judge. Henry Blofeld's father went to school with Ian Fleming, and his name was the possible inspiration for the name of James Bond supervillain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.[1] Blofeld's uncle was the Honourable Freddie Calthorpe,[notes 1] who captained England on their first-ever tour of the West Indies in 1929/30.

Henry was educated at Sunningdale School and Eton College, and played cricket at both. He was wicket-keeper for Eton from 1955-57. In 1956, playing against Harrow at Lord's, he was the third Eton batsman dismissed in as many balls by Harrow bowler Rex Neame. Later that year Blofeld was one of only three batsmen for Public Schools to score a century against Combined Services (the others being Peter May and Colin Cowdrey)[2] and he was given the Cricket Society's award for the most promising young player of the season.

Selected as Eton captain in his final year at school in 1957, Blofeld suffered a serious accident, being hit by a bus while riding a bicycle to the Eton cricket ground - he remained unconscious for 28 days. His injuries curtailed his subsequent cricketing career, though he did go on to play 16 first-class matches for Cambridge University in 1958 and 1959 (his team captain in 1958 was Ted Dexter), kept wicket for Free Foresters in their match against Cambridge in 1960, and played one Gillette Cup match for a minor county, Norfolk against Hampshire in 1965. While playing for Cambridge he scored a first-class century against MCC at Lord's in 1959. He won his Blue in 1959 "as an opening batsman of sorts… the worst Blue awarded since the war" according to Blofeld himself.[3] He attended King's College, Cambridge, but left after his first two years, and did not formally receive his degree.

Sports journalism

Blofeld took a job at the merchant bank, Robert Benson Lonsdale,[4] but it was not to his taste and he drifted into sports journalism. He reported on the England tour to India in 1963/4 for The Guardian, and was close to being picked as an emergency batsman to replace the ill Micky Stewart for the 2nd Test in Bombay. When he was told by David Clark, the tour manager, that he may have to play, Blofeld replied "I would certainly play if needed, but if I scored 50 or upwards in either innings I was damned if I would stand down for the Calcutta Test".[3] On the day of the Test Stewart discharged himself from hospital and was picked despite his illness. After tea on the first day Stewart was rushed back to hospital and played no further part in the tour.[3] Blofeld continued as a print journalist until 1972, when he joined the Test Match Special team. He has remained a regular commentator for Test Match Special, except for a period at BSkyB from 1991 to 1994. He also commentated for ITV in the 1960s.

Blofeld's cricket commentary is celebrated for his plummy voice and his idiosyncratic mention of superfluous details, including cranes, pigeons, buses, aeroplanes and helicopters that happen to be passing by.[5] He is also known to talk about the food on offer, in particular cakes, for extended periods of time after the tea and lunch breaks with occasional interruptions of the situation on the field. He also uses the phrase "my dear old thing", or variants thereof, to address fellow commentators and guests.

Henry Blofeld is God.
A banner proclaiming Henry Blofeld is God. Headingley, Leeds, August 8th 1996.

He frequently makes errors, for example failing to identify players correctly (one example was calling the England spinner Monty Panesar "Monty Python", and paceman Ryan Sidebottom "Ryan Stringfellow"), and is quite often lost for words in the more exciting passages of play. This does not detract from the love that many loyal listeners to Test Match Special the world over have for him, demonstrated in the Test against Pakistan at Headingley in 1996 when a flat overlooking the ground was draped with a banner proclaiming "Henry Blofeld is God" [6].


Blowers has been commentating less recently; he did not commentate at the 2007 World Cup despite having covered the opening ceremonies of the two preceding World Cups in 2003 and 1999 for TMS to popular acclaim. Many TMS fans wondered whether he was choosing to step aside, or if the BBC was gradually reducing his commitments. Speaking to Michael Parkinson on BBC Radio 2 on 26 August 2007, when asked by his interviewer why he was commentating less these days, after initially attempting to side-step the question Blowers observed that "they obviously want to bring in new faces", and added that during the Ashes tour in Australia during the winter of 2006/7 "I felt in a funny way that I wasn't part of it any more". That said, as of summer 2008 he appears to have resumed his full quota of commentary stints on (at least home) Tests and ODIs, with his enthusiasm undiminished.

In 1995, Blofeld was censured for an antisemitic comment made on-air at Headingley:

He referred to onlookers watching a match from the balcony of a tall building outside the ground at Headingley as being at “the Jewish end”[7]

Blofeld and the BBC both apologised for a comment that was "not spawned by malice".[7]

Outside sport

Blofeld was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting in 2003. The following year he appeared alongside Fred Trueman in the "Tertiary Phase" of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series playing himself.

Blofeld has written a partly autobiographical book entitled My Dear Old Thing: Talking Cricket. He undertakes an "Evening With Blowers" theatrical show and has been successfully touring it all over the UK for the last few years, as well as many other public speaking engagements.

Notes

  1. ^ See Gough-Calthorpe family

References

Further reading

  • Blofeld, Henry, My Dear Old Thing: Talking Cricket, (ISBN 0-09-173704-4)
  • Blofeld, Henry, A Thirst for Life, Hodder & Stoughton, (2001), (ISBN 0-340-77050-3)

External links

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