Episode 21: Talking with Huw Turbervill and Simon Hughes of The Cricketer

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.

The Cricketer, on the edge of a well-deserved century, is the oldest surviving cricket magazine in the world – and shows no sign of leaving the crease. With Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in their latest cricket-themed podcast are its managing editor, and historian, Huw Turbervill, and its editor, Simon Hughes, known to millions from his televised appearances as the Analyst.


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They reveal that another distinguished centenarian, Captain Sir Tom Moore is a subscriber and an avid cricket follower.

They trace the history of The Cricketer, from its foundation in 1921 as a worthwhile activity for Plum Warner after his retirement from first-class cricket. Although it followed the Great War and the Spanish flu pandemic but neither figured much in its early pages. Initially a weekly newspaper (at six old pence, about the price of a pint of beer), it began a tradition of securing famous cricketers and distinguished authors as contributors for little or no money.

Besides being general editor of The Cricketer, Warner was cricket correspondent of the (ultra-conservative) Morning Post newspaper. He combined these roles with managing England’s Bodyline tour of Australia in the 1930s an arrangement unthinkable today, which caused Warner considerable stress.
In 1939, The Cricketer greeted the outbreak of war with a memorable cricket-themed editorial. Gallantly, the staff coped with paper shortage and the Blitz to bring out issues throughout the war, which were much appreciated by British prisoners-of-war.

Huw and Simon share vivid memories of two distinguished contributors – E W Swanton, grandiose and overbearing but devoted to cricket and good writing, and Christopher Martin-Jenkins, gentle, humorous and always running late, who inspired deep loyalty.

They analyse the innovative competitions in English cricket introduced and still supported by The Cricketer, the Cup for old boys’ teams, and the highly popular National Village Trophy, which gives village teams the chance of playing at Lord’s (even in this Covid year.)

Huw and Simon reveal the ructions caused by their two-yearly attempts to name the players and writer with the greatest influence in cricket. They reveal those who objected to being demoted or under-placed.

They describe The Cricketer’s tight relationship with its readers and its determination to cover cricket at all levels. Recent issues have had a more social focus, and Simon outlines the magazine’s treatment of BlackLivesMatter and the loss of black people to English cricket.

Outlining his latest book A New Innings, co-authored with Manoj Badale owner of the IPL team, Rajastan Royals, Simon charts the generally benign effects of T20 on global cricket. He also sets out the revolutionary implications of the new relationships between cricketers and spectators through sophisticated digital platforms. These could make cricket thrive even if live spectatorship remains off-limits due to Covid (or the next virus).

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