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Henry Blofeld

 

Henry Calthorpe Blofeld, OBE (born 23 September 1939) nicknamed Blowers by Brian Johnston, is a retired English sports journalist, broadcaster and amateur ornithologist best known as a cricket commentator for Test Match Special on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. He has established a reputation as a commentator with an accent, vocabulary and syntax that is quintessentially Old Etonian both in style and substance. He also writes on cricket and has authored eight books to date.

Blofeld's family were landowners at Hoveton in Norfolk and he was the youngest of three siblings. His elder brother, Sir John Blofeld, became a High Court judge. Henry's father (Thomas Robert Calthorpe Blofeld, 1903–1986) was at Eton with Ian Fleming and his name is believed to have been the inspiration for the name of James Bond supervillain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Blofeld was educated at Sunningdale School in Berkshire and at Eton College, in Buckinghamshire, followed by King's College at the University of Cambridge.

Blofeld played cricket at both Sunningdale and Eton. He was wicket-keeper for the Eton College First XI and had an exceptional career as a schoolboy cricketer. In 1956, Blofeld scored 104 not out for a Public Schools team against the Combined Services, and he was given the Cricket Society's award for the most promising young player of the season. Appointed Eton captain in his final year at school, Blofeld suffered a very serious accident, when he was hit by a bus while riding a bicycle, remaining unconscious for 28 days.

Blofeld took a job at the merchant bank Robert Benson Lonsdale for three years, but it was not to his taste and he drifted into sports journalism. He reported on the England tour to India in 1963/4 for The Guardian, and was close to being picked as an emergency batsman to replace the ill Micky Stewart for the 2nd Test in Bombay. When he was told by David Clark, the tour manager, that he might have to play, Blofeld replied "I would certainly play if needed, but if I scored 50 or upwards in either innings I was damned if I would stand down for the Calcutta Test". On the day of the Test Stewart discharged himself from hospital and played despite his illness. After tea on the first day, Stewart was rushed back to hospital and played no further part in the tour. Blofeld continued as a print journalist until 1972 when he joined the Test Match Special team. He had also previously commentated for ITV in the 1960s.

Blofeld has been a regular commentator for TMS since 1972, except for a period at BSkyB from 1991 to 1994. Blofeld's cricket commentary is characterised by his plummy voice and his idiosyncratic mention of superfluous details regarding the scene, including things such as construction cranes or numbers of pink shirts in the crowd; as well as pigeons, buses, aeroplanes and helicopters that happen to be passing by. After the tea and lunch breaks he is also known to talk for extended periods of time about the food on offer, in particular cakes, with occasional interruptions to describe the situation on the field. He also uses the phrase "my dear old thing".

Since 2006 he commentated less frequently, missing the 2007 World Cup, despite having covered the opening ceremonies of the two preceding World Cups in 2003 and 1999 for TMS. During the summer 2008 season, he resumed a full commentating quota on Tests and ODIs.

Blofeld missed the 2009 home test series against South Africa but returned for the 2010 home series against Pakistan. He did not cover the Ashes series in Australia during 2010–11 but returned for the Indian tour of England in Summer 2011. In January 2012, he rejoined the TMS team covering England's tour of the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan and also the autumn 2012 England tour of India.

On 23 June 2017, Blofeld announced his retirement as a BBC Test Match Special commentator. His last test commentary was when England played West Indies at Lord's on 9 September 2017. He was given a standing ovation on a lap of the ground following the match.

He had a double heart bypass operation in 1999 after being diagnosed with angina and was given the last rites after he nearly died in intensive care following the operation. Blofeld lives in Chelsea.

Blofeld published an autobiography, Squeezing the Orange, in 2013. The book recounts his personal and professional life, including encounters with various celebrities and politicians, and a forty-six-day road trip from London to Bombay in a vintage Rolls-Royce. In 2017 he published Over and Out, a recollection of his years spent with the Test Match Special team.

Collectables Signed By Henry Blofeld