ID 164
Title John Arlott - Cricket's Radical Voice
Broadcast 2012-01-07 00:00:00
Network BBC Radio 4
Presenter Mark Whitaker
Producer Mark Whitaker
Precis John Arlott, who died just over twenty years ago, was not just the greatest ever cricket commentator. He was also a brave and radical political voice both inside and outside the game.
Duration 57
Txtime 1899-12-30 20:00:00
Description As the Test Match Special team reassembles for England vs Pakistan in Dubai, we look back on the man who died just over 20 years ago but is still universally considered to be the greatest cricket commentator and ‘the voice of an English summer’. It is not an exercise in nostalgia but an exploration of Arlott as a political figure both inside and outside the world of cricket.

John Arlott’s politics can best be summed up as those of a radical liberal, and he twice stood unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Party. But he would have found obedience to the party whip difficult, and he rarely adopted a party political stance during the many years that he appeared on the panel of the BBC Home Service’s Any Questions. He appeared with such people as Richard man, Michael Foot and a young Margaret Thatcher; and he attacked the political orthodoxies of both left and right. He always championed the ‘common man’ against the power or money or privilege.

His political bravery was most obvious within the deeply conservative world of English cricket. He challenged its leaders prejudices on both race and class. He was responsible for bringing Basil D’Oliveira to England, and we broadcast – for the first time – the correspondence between the two men in 1960. He refused to commentate when white South African teams came, and he was centrally involved in the Stop The Tour campaign in 1970. We interview Peter Hain about Arlott’s influence. He also supported the Professional Cricketers Association – the players’ trade union – and said that being elected its first President was the greatest honour ever shown him.

The programme uses archive from the BBC and beyond. It is written and presented by Mark Whitaker and is a Square Dog Radio production for the BBC.

SqDogNumber 51
Caption1 Arlott commentating on a Test Match at Edgbaston in 1970