Interview: Jonathan Agnew
Jonathan Agnew looks ahead to Test Match Special’s Live Tour –
2023 Ashes Special
Test Match Special Live 2023 will visit 17 venues across the UK for a show no cricket fan will want to miss.
The show will be packed with Ashes stories, anecdotes, special guests and plenty of audience interaction as this summer’s series is discussed and deliberated.
Ahead of the tour, former England fast bowler and broadcasting great Aggers looks ahead to the shows which will be the perfect scene setter for this summer’s eagerly awaited 73rd Ashes series.
Q: You are taking Test Match Special on tour ahead of The Ashes. What can the audience expect?
Aggers: The live shows are an extension of the radio programme. People chatting, telling stories watching some brilliant footage from Ashes series of the past. It’s a reminisce and reflection of what is one of the great sporting contests in the world.
On radio with TMS you are chatting away, but you can’t see anybody reacting. The audience really gets involved in these live shows which is fantastic. I’m really looking forward to this tour – it’s going to be a lot of fun!
Q: Alongside you for this year’s TMS Live Tour is one of cricket’s true legends. You must be looking forward to taking to the stage every night with Glenn McGrath?
Aggers: Glenn is such a lovely man and an Ashes legend.
He was always a grumpy so and so on the field but he is just the gentlest man off it.
Glenn had such an amazing career and he has so many fascinating stories about what it was like playing in that amazing Australian team that he and Shane (Warne) basically drove in the 1990s.
He’s going be a really good partner to have doing the tour and we’re going to have guests popping in, lots of footage, lots of illustration of what the Ashes is. It really is an extraordinary thing.
Cricket changes so fast but the Ashes remains part of folklore.
Q: How did you get involved in Test Match Special?
Aggers: It was just one of those things where an opportunity comes along and you just grab it. I made the decision to retire from playing cricket quite young and I went to Australia to cover that for the (former) Today newspaper. Christopher Martin Jenkins, who was a BBC cricket correspondent announced during that tour that he was leaving the BBC, so the opening came up.
At that time, I hadn’t listened to TMS for quite a long time because we were always on the road playing. But I’d listened to it a lot as a kid with my dad. This is now my 33rd summer with TMS – it’s amazing really.
I see myself as hopefully being a bit of a bridge between the old guard and the new young guns. It’s like a soap opera, people come and go and like most soap operas you need someone who tries to hold it all together!
Q: What is it that makes Test Match Special so successful and well-loved?
Aggers: I think it’s the company, it’s the friendliness, the gentle humour – well apart from when dear Geoffrey (Boycott) is on and we have the occasional argument!
Cricket does have to be the thread that runs and holds it all together and we must never lose sight of that.
Email and social media has helped create more of a conversation with the listeners. I used to sit down with a fair amount of dread when it was raining thinking ‘how do we fill this?’
But these days as soon as you get a bit of a theme going everybody joins it and it makes it such a nice programme to be part of.
Listeners really do know that they can get involved and you know there’s a very good chance that anything that you do contribute will be broadcast and talked about and that’s such a nice thing.
Q: What makes The Ashes so special?
Aggers: The Ashes, test cricket, it’s one of the longest rivalries in sporting history and it means so much.
It’s hostile, it’s patriotic – all those things that you want from a big sporting event! It’s very special and it’s so important that we celebrate it every time it comes around.
Q: What are your recollections of Glenn McGrath’s impact on the Ashes?
Aggers: No fast bowler has taken more England wickets than Glenn.
My memories of him are basically of him destroying England. He and Shane were such an incredible partnership.
They were very different – I used to call Shane Warne a pantomime dame. This huge character, very flamboyant. Lots of gesturing and words.
Glenn got on with his job quietly, very mechanically and it was his precision. He was like a perfect swinging pendulum. He was a clock that never lost or gained time.
Every movement was perfect. He made bowling looking fairly easy but he was meticulous and worked hard.
We’ve got some great stuff with him losing it in the commentary box in 2019 during that Ben Stokes innings at Headingley, throwing his headphones on the ground in fury, he still wears his heart on his sleeve that’s for sure!
Q: England’s test side has been transformed under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. What is your prediction for the Ashes?
Aggers: Australia haven’t won here for more than 20 years and when we left Australia last year, I thought this coming summer they would win easily. It was all a bit of a shambles in the England set up after that defeat in Grenada in March
So what has happened since is unbelievable, it is literally unbelievable.
Ben Stokes was the only person who could come in after Joe Root and he is a very strong leader, very charismatic. You’d run through a brick wall for the bloke.
The interesting one is actually Brendon McCullum, who was just the most brilliant appointment. He’s always been an incredibly relaxed and calm individual.
They are playing a really exciting style of cricket. It’s thrilling to watch.
It is such a healthy atmosphere around the England camp right now and they are a delight to work with. You just can’t bet against this England side right now.
Q: Who are the key players on either side?
Aggers: I’m inclined to say Stokes because his captaincy is going to be so important. It will be fascinating to see how he goes about leading England against Australia, especially if Australia start well. Inevitably it’s Steve Smith on the Australian side because he’s just so difficult to bowl to.
Pat Cummins is a fine bowler and captain, so he is also very important but I would say Stokes and Smith.
Test Match Special Live – The Ashes Special, with Jonathan Agnew and Glenn McGrath, tours the UK from April 5. For tickets and venue information visit www.fane.co.uk/TMS
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