4 AUGUST 2001, Page 26

Aggers aggrieved

From Mr Jonathan Agnew Sir: I would like to respond to Peter Oborne's article about Test Match Special ('Special pleading', 28 July), and his disparaging observations about me in particular. I do not know if Mr Oborne was merely attempting to be controversial, but he might at least have done me the decency of researching his subject first.

'During the short Pakistan series earlier this year, one of the Pakistan batsmen was suddenly sick on the wicket,' he wrote. 'Brian Johnston would have turned the consternation that followed into five minutes of pure comedy. Agnew was at first struck speechless, then confined himself to two or three disapproving comments. He could not rise to the occasion.'

The cricketer in question was the fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar. Anyone with merely a passing knowledge of the game would have known that he was undergoing rigorous tests on his stomach at the time. It was feared, during that very Test match, that he might have cancer. The illness, which has still to be diagnosed, ended his tour prematurely. How hilarious. What pure comedy. As for my comments being, allegedly, 'disapproving' when the poor fellow, once again, was violently sick — how insulting.

Mr Oborne doubts that TMS has a future with me on the team. Well, in spite of my presence for 11 years, it has not yet collapsed. Instead, Mr Oborne wants buffoonery, poetry, and suggests that Rory Bremner should present the programme. Those are his views and he is entirely free to air them. However, since Mr Oborne particularly admires Christopher Martin-Jenkins's fastidiousness, he might like to apply it to his own work in future. Or, on the evidence of the above, stick to subjects he knows something about. Fossils?

Jonathan Agnew

BBC cricket correspondent, BBC Radio Four, Broadcasting House, London W1

From Mr Mike Taylerson Sir: Peter Oborne laments the sad decline of Test Match Special. I agree with most of his analysis, but surely he ignores the internal conflict and tension which made TMS at its best so compelling.

It is generally accepted that John Arlott loathed the Wodehousian Brian Johnston. Similarly, there was always the sharp tang of a Gentlemen v. Players contest whenever Trevor Bailey and Fred Trueman appeared together. Don Mosey seemed to resent just about everyone, but in particular Christopher Martin-Jenkins who had been appointed BBC cricket correspondent instead of him. Somehow Aggers. Vic Marks and company seem a little too cosy after such predecessors.

How, then, to bring back literary quality and the underlying sense of tension? The answer, surely, would be to appoint that elegant and slightly menacing cricket-lover, Harold Pinter, to TMS. His perfectly modulated actor's voice, and the delivery, full of pauses promising that something significant was about to happen, would be perfect for cricket commentary. The sense of left-wing disapproval, too, as CMJ read out details of yet another I Zingari fixture would enrich the brew.

Perhaps add to this Tim Rice as a Johnners-like figure of bonhomie, and maybe Brian Close and Mike Brearley as sum marisers from opposing camps. One would be longing for rain breaks to hear the clashing of egos.

Mike Taylerson

Hartlepool, Teesside