Boycott and Aggers set to sparkle again on Southampton stage

Boycott & Aggers
Boycott & Aggers
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And the good news for cricket lovers is… they are back!

If you caught them at the Mayflower a couple of years ago, then you’ll certainly be returning when they take to the stage in Southampton again on April 12 for another evening of Boycott and Aggers.

Dubbed “the Lennon & McCartney of cricket broadcasting” by Wisden, they are, as BBC cricket correspondent and former fast bowler Jonathan Agnew happily admits, very much the odd couple.

“I think people are quite interested to see us in the flesh rather than the radio, and they enjoy a bit of argy-bargy. They enjoy the banter on the radio which can get a bit boisterous. On TV and on radio (former England opening batsman) Geoffrey is very forthright, and I think you have to have quite a strong character to deal with that, if you like. And even if sometimes I might not appear that strong, if you analyse it, you will see that I am leading him through the evening. There is something subtle going on.”

But it is the contrasts which help bring it together: “He is 20 years older than me. He is a miner’s son and grew up the hard way. I am a farmer’s son that went to public school and had a rather cushier life than Geoffrey did in many ways.

“When we were both playing, Geoffrey would say that he was past his best, being 20 years older, but we had a lot of good banter. I got him out a few times… and I didn’t get him out a few times! But it was always good fun and always a bit of banter, and we got on very well.”

Linking them is that they are both absolute naturals when it comes to broadcasting.

“I think as a broadcaster, you have to be absolutely yourself. If you try to be anyone other than yourself, you will get found out. What you hear on radio is what you get, though maybe the size of the character is amplified a bit on radio. Perhaps there is a bit of caricature going on. But I was very lucky to have learnt from (fellow commentator) Brian Johnston (with whom he shared the celebrated ‘leg-over’ on-air giggling fit in 1991). I learnt by listening. He never said to me ‘do this’ or ‘do that’. I learnt from him timing, when to try to be funny, when to be sensible. Brian was the most natural broadcaster I have ever worked with. You have to have it within you, of course, but it rubbed off on me.

“It was just a question of me watching him, and I try to help a lot of people broadcasting now. I think the best piece of advice I had was from Henry Blofeld. He said ‘Don’t ever try to copy someone.’ If you try to copy someone else, you will soon fall over. You have got to be yourself, but you can always learn techniques to improve what you do. But the basic element is to be yourself.”

And the great thing is that radio and cricket – or more specifically the pace of cricket – are the ideal combination for allowing personality to shine through. You must never let the stories get in the way of the cricket, but you do know that you can return to them when the cricket allows you.

It’s is pretty relentless though: “People were shouting at me that I was not in the West Indies doing three utterly-meaningless one-day internationals, but I was away for six months last year.”

Even so, it remains the best job in the world – for the simple reason that you never know what is going to happen when you turn up to commentate.

As for those three meaningless ODIs in the Windies, Jonathan agrees: it is sad to see the West Indies doing so poorly.

“It is terrible for the West Indies. Each area in the world brings its own stamp to cricket, India, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, West Indies. They don’t all play the same way.”

In fact, Aggers reckons if you black out the batsman, he could tell you within six balls in the nets where that particular batsman comes from – which is, of course, all part of the fascination of the game.

“Everyone plays differently, and not every one can have that great Caribbean flair… but the West Indies can at their best.”

Jonathan believes the wheel can turn and the West Indies can be great again. But he laments they haven’t always been best served by their captains, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle, for instance – wonderful players both: “But they were just distracted characters out there. They were brilliant players both. But they were not the political operator like Clive Lloyd in bringing it all together…”

Tickets on www.mayflower.org.uk.

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