The BBC faced furious criticism on Sunday night after deciding not to send a commentary team to cover England’s first tour of Pakistan for 17 years. It is understood that a combination of cost savings and security protocols drove the decision.
Test Match Special, cricket’s flagship radio show, will instead call the action from television footage from a studio in Salford.
MP Julian Knight, chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘It is a scandal that the first series in Pakistan for almost a generation is not covered. properly. The BBC’s top brass always cite cost cutting, but if they’re wasting huge sums on the likes of Gary Lineker and groaning under the weight of middle managers, there’s no way they can be taken seriously.
It comes as another blow to traditional listeners after the BBC announced the closure of Radio 4 Long Wave earlier this summer, meaning TMS will in future only be available on digital platforms despite the fact that millions of people cannot access it.
Henry Blofeld, a TMS commentator for 45 years until his retirement in 2017, lamented the BBC’s failure to send to Pakistan as “very sad”.
“Is it a matter of BBC cuts? Is it a security issue? Is it a question of how difficult it is to get cooperation from the broadcasting authorities there?
“We live in a time where everything is much tighter. It’s very sad, but it’s a matter of housekeeping, isn’t it? »
The BBC hopes to send its usual commentary team to cover the Test series in Pakistan in December. They also have rights to the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.
The BBC has lost its overseas rights in recent years to Talksport to focus instead on ICC events and The Ashes in Australia.
Talksport had the rights to England’s tour of the West Indies in March and also failed to send out a full commentary team, relying instead on calling the action from home with input from the pitch .
Sky will take the international lead with personal commentator Mark Butcher providing England analysis from Pakistan. David Gower will cover the series as one of the host broadcaster’s commentators, meaning he will be back on Sky for the first time since his contract was not renewed in 2019.
The Sunday Telegraph has approached the BBC for comment.
Meanwhile Matthew Mott, the one-day squad head coach, has insisted Ben Stokes and Alex Hales don’t have to be ‘best friends’ to help England win the World Cup next month.
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