Top players of spin: The inside story on cricket's press corps

A Lord's Test match means that cricket's press corps is obligedto work inside an extraordinary eyrie that has been dubbed 'Cherie Blair’s mouth'. Angus Fraser reports
Click to follow
The Independent Online

No international cricket team travels with as many journalists in its wake as England and keeping us all happy is an impossible task. Nowhere has this been better highlighted than at Lord's. Before 1999 the press box was situated at the top of the Warner Stand, positioned on the boundary at extra cover, or wide fine leg, depending on which end the bowling was from. It afforded a poor view of the ground.

In an attempt to rectify the situation and to make a statement before the 1999 World Cup the MCC spent £5.8m on an all singing, all dancing media centre at the Nursery End of the ground. The structure, which looks like a spaceship hovering above the Compton and Edrich Stands, won architectural awards. The huge glass frontage, offering almost 200 journalists a wonderful view of the ground, earned the nickname "Cherie Blair's mouth". It was not enough to satisfy us hacks. There is only one window in the building and that was begrudgingly created only when BBC's Test Match Special threatened to commentate from the other end. Windows are needed so that those reporting on the game can feel the atmosphere within the ground. It remains a constant gripe.

When the Media Centre was opened most journalists rushed to the front believing it would offer the best view. They had failed to realise that on a cloudless day the sun is in their face all afternoon. The most wanted seats quickly became those in the third and fourth row and have been filled by the major newspapers. The front two rows have, somewhat selfishly, been left to our overseas guests.

Above where the written media sit are commentary booths, from where the likes of Sir Ian Botham, David Gower, Nasser Hussain, Jonathan Agnew and Geoffrey Boycott look down on us literally and metaphorically. The press box is alive with conversation and occasional laughter during the first two sessions of play as journalists collect their thoughts and discuss contentious incidents. By teatime – 4pm – it has quietened down as a sharp, witty intro is sought. For the next three hours the sound of fingers striking keyboard dominates the room. The occasional noisy drunk falls out of the hospitality suites situated at either end but it does not take long before Derek Pringle of the Daily Telegraph tells them where to go.



The who's who of cricket writers:

John Etheridge – The Sun

The paper's cricket correspondent for 19 years. When big stories break his experience comes to the fore, relaying the news back to his office with a minimum of fuss. A heavy right boot has turned me in to his occasional chauffeur this summer.

Mike Selvey – The Guardian

There is little fuss about the former Middlesex, Glamorgan and England fast bowler. Quietly goes about his business and writes beautifully. Loves a theory and is great on statistics.

David Hopps – The Guardian

Selvey's volatile number two. Hopps has a voice and laugh that can be heard above all others. On a Sunday we get graphic detail of his exploits with Thorner CC, for whom he averages 16 this season.

Colin Bateman – Daily Express

The longest serving newspaper cricket correspondent has seen it all before and deals with late stories and deadlines in a calm, quiet and effective way.

Paul Newman – Daily Mail

Relatively new to the job, taking over from the much liked Mike Dickson in 2007. Quiet and diligent, very little escapes him. Close friend of Nasser Hussain, a Daily Mail columnist, and a big Essex fan. Never mind.

Chris Foy – Daily Mail

Not short of confidence and always immaculately turned out. Loves revving up a story.

Charles Sale – Daily Mail

If Charlie is in town cricket is the week's big show. Sale is a hive of activity, always on the phone persuading people to part with information for his much acclaimed diary. Strong and occasionally bad language erupts from his vicinity.

Glenn Moore – The Independent

The former Independent on Sunday cricket correspondent and current Football Editor enjoys the summer game. It makes a pleasant change from Frank Lampard's transfer saga.

Stephen Brenkley – The Independent on Sunday

Our combative and industrious Sunday man is always busy, either tapping away at his computer or badgering someone over his latest bugbear. Stephen is making a name for himself on television and radio, where his forthright views and booming voice take centre stage.

Stephen Fay – The Independent on Sunday

There is nothing Stephen has not done in journalism and it is why he is one of the most respected figures in the press box. He quietly studies what takes place in the middle before opening his laptop and follows its closure with a glass of claret.

Dean Wilson – The Daily Mirror

The youngest member of the pack, by some distance. Dean was a decent cricketer, representing Middlesex U19's, and he brings that, along with a cynical and embittered mind to the job. He should go far.

Mike Walters – The Daily Mirror

The former cricket correspondent is still a regular visitor to Lord's, entertaining us with his puns and wisdom. Nicknamed MGM for his short, audible bursts on the keypad of his computer.

David Lloyd – London Evening Standard

He has the toughest day writing running copy for the different editions of the paper. Finishes in mid afternoon when the rest of us start. Then he can sit back and dream of cycling in the Tour de France.

Derek Pringle – Daily Telegraph

The former Essex and England cricketer left The Independent in 2002 for the Daily Telegraph. Derek is the font of all knowledge and the press corps sommelier. His conversations with the office are very amusing.

Simon Briggs – Daily Telegraph

Nicknamed "Cato" after Inspector Clouseau's side-kick in the Pink Panther films because of the way Pringle treats him. Briggs is young, ambitious and one of trendier members of the group, often arriving at Lord's on his bike.

Martin Johnson – Daily Telegraph

This former Independent cricket correspondent is a source of humour, dishing out stick, especially to Pringle, with regularity. On his day his piss taking brings a tear to the eye.

Michael Atherton – The Times

The most recently appointed daily cricket correspondent, replacing Christopher Martin-Jenkins in 2008. The former England captain splits his time between his seat here and the Sky commentary booth. Writes a column on a Thursday.

Richard Hobson – The Times

Studious and deep he has an impish sense of humour. His persistent questioning has been known to irk the odd interviewee.

Andrew Miller – Cricinfo

A busy man, constantly updating the website with live news stories and commentary.

Myles Hodgson – PA cricket correspondent

The busiest man in the press box. Has to constantly deal with deadlines as he provides copy for a variety of outlets. In a gruff Lancashire way he deals with everything manfully. Heavy fingers mean his turnover of laptops is high.

Ted Corbett – The Hindu and Glasgow's Sunday Herald

Much respected father like figure who sits at the back of the press box taking in the actions of those around him. Big in India.

Comments