Stumped! Test Match Special could be bowled out by India fees row

Cult cricket report may fall silent for first time in 40 years after BBC was asked for more money
  • @tompeck

With its calypso-tinged theme music, a never ending supply of cakes sent in by listeners and Blowers' regular updates on double-decker buses journeying up and down the Harleyford Road, for thousands of fans the thought of cricket without BBC Radio's Test Match Special is simply unimaginable.

But, for the first time in 40 years, the show, now starring Jonathan Agnew, Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Vaughan and Phil Tufnell, may not be accompanying English test matches this winter, the result of a disagreement over fees between it and the Indian cricket authorities.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has asked the BBC to pay an extra £50,000 to use broadcast facilities at the various stadiums during the series. Sky Sports have also been asked to pay £500,000.

In a statement, a BBC spokesperson said: "We are continuing talks with the relevant authorities in India about what we regard as unreasonable demands for facility fees.

"We remain hopeful that the talks will be resolved successfully and we can broadcast Test Match Special from India for England's test series."

The first of four tests is due to begin on 15 November, with the final contest starting on 13 December.

If a solution cannot be found, Sky Sports' comentators and pundits – Sir Ian Botham, David Gower, Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain – would be likely to add commentary over the top of television pictures provided by the Indian host broadcaster from their London studios. However, the BBC, which only has the rights to broadcast live over the radio, would be unlikely to do the same.

An official from the BCCI told the Mail on Sunday: "It is not as if they have only asked for a commentary box. They have demanded a full control room, just like the one our host broadcaster has at every venue.

"If you have to create an additional space of 2,000 sq ft, fully air-conditioned, it will bear a lot of cost. And neither the BCCI nor any of our affiliated units who would be hosting the match would bear the additional cost," he added.

Since its inception in 1957, Test Match Special has provided many of the most famous moments in cricket broadcasting history. In 1991, Agnew asserted that Botham was out hit wicket because he had failed to "get his leg over". This caused Agnew and his fellow commentator, Brian "Johnners" Johnston, to collapse into uncontrollable giggles for minutes afterwards, in what is regularly called the most memorable sporting commentary ever.

Johnston, who died in 1994, once complained on air that he had missed his cake at tea during one match. The commentary team have been inundated with cakes ever since.