'I need the adrenaline' - How Henry Blofeld has bounced back

BBC cricket commentator Henry Blofeld.Byline: Sonya Duncan

Former BBC cricket commentator Henry Blofeld at his home in Hoveton - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Henry Blofeld is not intending to slow down anytime soon as he approaches his 82nd birthday in September following a distinguished broadcasting career. 

If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has fuelled his appetite to keep his diary as full as possible with engagements. 

Sitting in his Hoveton cottage, the former Test Match Special stalwart said: "If you have been as near to death as I have seven or eight times in my life... things have gone wrong with me such as heart bypass operations that did not work.. .I was firmly determined the coronavirus was not going to kill me."

After his live one-man show in theatres around the UK was scuppered by Covid, 'Blowers', as he is affectionately known, has recorded vodcasts for his At Home With Henry show instead.

Having entertained millions of listeners on radio airwaves over the years, Blofeld found the change to live pre-pandemic theatre surprisingly challenging.

He said: "You get much more pressure in a funny way talking to people in a theatre who you can actually see, 250 or whatever, than 100 million who you can't see if you are describing an exciting test match.

"If you make a joke or you say something, the only reaction you get in the commentary box would be Vic Marks and someone else who sniggers, and you think 'well that's alright'.

"If, on the other hand, on stage you have certain bankers and you trot out a banker and can hear a pin drop, you think 'ah, I got something wrong didn't I'.

Most Read

"It hits you because you know, but you don't ever really know on radio." 

BBC cricket commentator Henry Blofeld.Byline: Sonya Duncan

Retired BBC cricket commentator Henry Blofeld at home in Norfolk - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Going from making commercials, writing books, theatre and giving talks on cruises to lockdown was a shock to the system for Blofeld, who retired as a commentator in 2017 due to his failing eyesight.

"I need the adrenaline that comes from my busy life and I was a little bit nervous while lockdown went on, that now I'm nearly 82, I might not be able to get it back again," he said.

"In the last five or six weeks I have been as busy as ever.

"I have got it back which is terrific."

His "through the keyhole-style" vodcast recordings will include memories of his life growing up in Hoveton and falling in love with cricket.

He said: "My cricket for Norfolk was played at Lakenham which I think is now a housing estate. It had that lovely thatched pavilion that has come down.

"Lakenham was a wonderful ground and it was very sad for me that it went." 

Educated at Eton College and a first-class cricketer for Cambridge, his playing career was curtailed after he was hit by a bus while cycling.

"Thank you bus very much, because if I played cricket I would have had to retire at 37 or thereabouts but as it was, I retired a week short of my 78th birthday," he said. 

His favourite matches to commentate on were the iconic 1981 Headingley Ashes Test and the 1982 Melbourne Test, in which Ian Botham claimed the last wicket of Jeff Thomson with four runs to spare. 

For Blofeld, Sir Garfield Sobers was "the greatest cricketer of all time without a shadow of a doubt", while Alan Knott was his favourite wicketkeeper. 

Test cricket will always remain the "golden standard" in his eyes, describing the new Hundred format as "one new competition too many". 

"If you took Test cricket away it would very much be like taking the bannisters of a very big staircase, people would fall over the edge and I think the sport would go down a great deal in terms of standards," Blofeld said.

He described the standing ovation he received during his final commentating match at Lord's as "an amazing moment". 

Blofeld continues to listen keenly to TMS, and attended the first match of the summer at Lord's against New Zealand, mainly for the social aspect of catching up with old friends. 

But watching cricket was not easy for him for the first couple of years following his retirement.

"I didn't awfully enjoy it because I couldn't do anything with it," he said.

"I couldn't commentate and I had never not commentated for a very long time so I got very frustrated with it."

He described his former colleague Jonathan Agnew as a "wonderful man". 

BBC cricket commentator Henry Blofeld.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

Henry Blofeld has been recording a new At Home with Henry vodcast for his fans to watch - Credit: Sonya Duncan

On his former TMS team, Blofeld said: "The other one who I think at the moment is doing wonderfully well is Simon Mann and I rang him up yesterday actually to say well done because I think he's always rather understated and whether he always get the applause he deserves, I am not sure."

Regarding Geoffrey Boycott, he added: "Geoffrey talked a lot of sense, a tremendous lot of sense, but he was a definite chap. His only two sides of an argument was his way and the wrong way!"

Blofeld's sense of joie de vivre continues to glow, and he received his coronavirus vaccinations from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the first in December. 

During his vodcast, he talks about his outlook on life and what kept him going during lockdown. 

Blofeld said: "I make the point that I am always someone who deals with tomorrow rather than yesterday which is basically how I get through everything in life really.

"I think that's the great thing too, how terribly lucky I have been in so many ways, the dice have really fallen for me."

Tickets for all three sessions of his new virtual show can be purchased at simonfielder.com/productions/at-home-with-henry/