Cricket: Jonathan Agnew on the fate of Anderson and Broad… and his favorite comment

Cricket: Jonathan Agnew on the fate of Anderson and Broad... and his favorite comment

Test Match Special veteran Jonathan Agnew says England made the wrong call by leaving James Anderson and Stuart Broad out of their Caribbean tour.

The former England tailor believes Anderson and Broad, with 1,177 Test wickets between them, still have a role to play for the national side.

And he fears that the decision to leave them aside, as the ECB tries to pull out of the shambolic Ashes of Winter campaign, was the wrong decision for the wrong reason.

“I’ve always thought you pick the best team,” he told ECHO, ahead of a 20-date live tour alongside fellow commentator Phil Tufnell, which will kick off at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena. April 9.

“The players accept that, whatever sport you play. You might disagree and think you should be on the best team, but as long as there is integrity in the selection process, everyone buys into it.

Agnew believes the rest and rotation policy, ostensibly with the next Ashes cycle in mind, risks bringing two glorious careers to premature and undignified ends.

He added: “To say to someone who has played well ‘sorry, you won’t play the next game because you might be playing Brisbane in eight months’ – what is that? All the players I interviewed hated it.

Stuart Broad and James Anderson (Photo by Jason O’Brien/PA Wire)

“If you lose your spot, you fight to get it back. That’s what Jimmy and Stuart are going to do, I’m sure they’re going to be determined to get their places back.

“But the concern is that the other guys are doing pretty well, and England are beating the West Indies… so you’re going to go back and bring in a 39-year-old and a 35-year-old?

“It would be such a shame for these two, who have given so much and been so successful, to have their careers ended with a phone call and a press release.”

Joe Root’s beleaguered and much-changed Test team have more immediate concerns than the retirement plans of their two highest ever wicket takers.

A 3-0 victory for Michael Vaughan’s side in 2003/4 – a remarkable run for Steve Harmison’s 7/12 and Brian Lara’s 400/0 – is England’s only win in the Caribbean since the 1960s. Since that triumph, they have won away against every other Test nation except Pakistan.

The dark brown caps that inspired awe and fear in the 70s and 80s are now welcomed, at least by England; the results are substantially the same, at least for England.

“We were heavily beaten the last time we were there,” Agnew said. “It was a familiar story – picking the wrong team and leaving Stuart Broad out.

“They’ve dropped a lot of players for this tour, good or bad.

“You don’t have many opportunities in international cricket these days to look at it, and if your only responsibility is to take all the emotion out of it and actually say my job is building a team for the future… you kind of get a glimpse of why he did it.

“But judging by the feedback I’ve received, I think people are disappointed for Broad and Anderson.”

Agnew leaves to cover the tour, but not to commentate – the BBC lost to talkSPORT for the radio rights. Competition is something the TMS team has had to come to terms with as part of how the game has changed lately – in the commentary box as well as on the pitch.

“When I started in the early 90s, we broadcast from India with a four-wire circuit,” Agnew recalls. “There was a wavy strand of wire sticking out of one wall and that was your broadcast line to the house.

“It would go from the Calcutta cricket ground to the Calcutta exchange, then to Bombay, then to Tehran, then to Berlin, to the GPO tower in London and then to Broadcasting House – and you would hear the operators literally plugging the thing in like it traveled around the world.

TMS has been forced to adapt in more ways than one. Despite its reputation for stifling conventionality, it has found room in recent years for new media graduates such as Test Match Sofa founder Dan Norcross and comedian-turned-blogger-turned-statistician Andy Zaltzman.

There’s a difficult balance to be struck between acknowledging how the game has changed over the past 15 years – T20 franchise leagues on the pitch, modern analytics and data visualization – and restoring a audience who, on the whole, would prefer things stayed the same.

Agnew himself is a lifelong purist, and no Hundred fan: “People are really upset that England are losing the Ashes like they did – do they care about Manchester Originals’ loss to the Trents Rockets?

“When you get a test match that sinks and ebbs like he does and two teams go against each other, you don’t get anything like that in a Hundred match or a T20 match. You get entertainment, but chances are you forgot about it tomorrow.

“I think I would have some sort of memory of every Test match I’ve ever seen, and it’s approaching 400 now.”

Agnew reminisces 31 years as BBC cricket correspondent this year – but he’s not losing his appetite for the game.

He said: “The game moves on and the thinking evolves – it’s important that you sometimes have an older head, so that the game continues in the right direction and at the right pace.

“I’m so thrilled to be leading such a diverse team of truly talented broadcasters.”

Jofra Archer playing Super Over in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup Final (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Jofra Archer playing Super Over in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup Final (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Short-form cricket gave England fans one of their best days of 2019, with Agnew trying to describe the indescribable end to the World Cup final. For this correspondent’s money, his “don’t throw it DON’T THROW IT oh he didn’t throw it away” as Jofra Archer brooded misguided shy on the stumps during the Super Over remains one of the most chaotically brilliant comments ever.

But six weeks later it was eclipsed by the Ashes Test at Headingley – Agnew, accompanied by a phlegmatic Alastair Cook and a slowly disintegrating Glenn McGrath, was in his element as Ben Stokes directed a lesser sequel artificial and more remarkable. “It’s six or more… IT’S SIX” as Marnus Labuschagne hopped unsuccessfully over the far boundary – come on, that still gives the creeps, doesn’t it?

“We’ll never see that kind of finish in a Test match again, I’m sure,” Agnew said. “So that has to be my favorite comment.”

The point of the stage tour is to make the audience feel like they’ve been invited into the TMS commentary box – something people donate thousands to charity in order to do for real.

“I want there to be more depth to the show than people showing up, laughing and going home,” he added.

“I want them to really feel like they understand how this ridiculous and extraordinary program has gone on for so long.”

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