KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
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Jonathan Agnew believes Brian Johnston’s presence is as strong as ever after launching his new book, 'Thanks, Johnners', a tribute to his late Test Match Special colleague.
Agnew was at the Home of Cricket to sign copies of the book, and spoke of his desire to ensure Johnston’s legacy reaches a new generation.
The BBC cricket correspondent first appeared on Test Match Special (TMS) in 1991 and instantly formed a bond with Johnston.
The pair were famously involved in the ‘leg over’ incident during a Test match between England and West Indies that summer - a moment which has gone down in broadcasting history.
Despite Johnston’s sudden death in 1994, Agnew wants his impact on the game - and on his own career - to be remembered.
Agnew said: "He’s still around.
"Barely a day goes by without Brian Johnston’s name coming up - be it email, on air, a couple of us chatting about him at the back of the box - that’s one reason why I've written this book.
"I wanted to tell people, who perhaps didn’t know Brian Johnston, a bit about him - the influence he had on me, as a broadcaster.
"His great skill, the reason people loved him, was that he just made people think he was talking to them individually.
"It doesn’t matter how many millions of people were listening it was Brian and he was talking to you. That’s a very rare thing.
"It really had a huge impact on me it really did.
"So it [the book] is a tribute and a thanks to him."
No TMS in ten years?
Agnew is worried however, about finding the next generation of ball-by-ball commentators to sustain the dynasty created by the likes of Johnston and MCC President Christopher Martin-Jenkins (CMJ)
"I don’t know where the next commentators are coming from, that’s my big worry. I just don’t see a pipeline.
"That’s not a dig at the BBC, I think they’re worried about it as well. I just don’t see the opportunity for young commentators now to get out there and learn how to do it.
"You’ve got to have it already to an extent - there’s something about your ability to broadcast which makes you a Test Match Special sort of a broadcaster which is not like anything else.
"These guys - Johnners - they’d comment on county cricket for hours. I’m really worried. I don’t see at the moment where TMS will be in ten years time.
Radio versus TV
"I don’t think you have to be an ex-pro to be a ball-by-ball commentator - Michael Vaughan isn’t ball-by-ball - this is where there’s a distinction on radio.
"That line is blurred on television - both commentators do the same role. I think their commentary is less descriptive, possibly you could say it’s less entertaining than it was.
"They’re ex-players talking about the game (I’d exclude David Lloyd from that, absolutely) what they see as far as technique - they’ve certainly improved people’s appreciation of that. But I think some of the entertainment’s gone.
"That is what your Brian Johnson’s, your Henry Blofeld’s your CMJs all these people who haven’t been top-class cricketers bring to it.
"I do think you have to have played, you have to have an eye for a bit of fun, entertainment, you have to have a nice voice - that’s the first thing that gets switched off, people just hit the button."
"Commentary is so much more than sitting there and saying ‘In comes so-and-so and bowls...’ it’s much much more than that.
"It comes back to TMS commentary. It’s that special ingredient that stands out the real successes on TMS and those that aren’t."
Fans of both Johnston and Agnew would agree that both have been "successes" on the beloved Test Match Special.