Episode 18: Talking with Sports Writer and Radio Broadcaster Pat Murphy

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller have launched a new podcast to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They chat regularly about cricket topics – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

For well over forty years, as author, reporter and commentator with the highest standards of integrity, Pat Murphy has been telling the world about cricket as it really happened. He is the guest of Peter Oborne and  Richard Heller  in their  latest cricket-themed podcast.


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He sets out his ideals as a radio commentator, above all, being authentic, the same person off air as on it – like Terry Wogan. He adds:  “you’ve got the best seat in the house, bring people alongside you.” The paramount need is to tell the score as soon as it changes. He shares the wonderful experience of a private seminar with John Arlott over 1 ½ days. He cites Arlott’s special gift for bringing in the crowd, one shared with other great commentators, in football and other sports, and how the  current  lack  of crowds is a handicap to sports coverage. He hails Test Match Special in the 1970s as the apogee of cricket commentary, but notes how commentary styles have to change to meet public demand.

He reveals his favourite commentary bloopers – including the one which earned him after 45 years his first mention in Private  Eye’s feature Commentator balls.

As a ghost writer and collaborator  with such greats as Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Imran Khan, he shares the secrets of getting sports personalities to speak in  their  own voice and be open about  issues which present-day readers expect to be discussed. He reveals which great cricketer could remember less about his on-field achievements than his celebration of them afterwards. He apologizes  for some terrible  punning titles of his books.

Pat Murphy dwells  on his collaboration with “Tiger” Smith, Warwickshire and England wicketkeeper, then umpire and coach, whose long life  covered a huge span of cricket history: he played with W G Grace and gave expert  advice to Mike Brearley, then England captain, in 1979.

He reveals the astonishing  pace (5000 words a day) at which he produced his recent detailed and multi-layered analysis of Warwickshire’s triumphs in the mid-1990s and the discipline he set himself to achieve this (including  shaving before writing).

He shares his withering contempt for Rupert Murdoch and his impact on British sport and public life.

Offered the post of dictator of British sport he sets out a personal agenda for English cricket:

-Abolish the Hundred (an “atrocity”)
-End the dominance of marketing people  at the English Cricket Board, and prevent them reducing and downgrading the County Championship
-Combat the marginalization of cricket in English life and declining  participation thanks to the Sky paywall
-Stop cricket becoming a sport only for white children who have been to independent  schools (just three black England cricketers so far this century)

Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast was produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.