Legendary broadcaster Jonathan Agnew’s venerable tones have graced the airwaves for over four decades and bought both pain and pleasure to millions as he brings to life the pace and rhythm of the handsome game of cricket.
Aggers, as he is affectionately known, will soon to heard by thousands more as he takes up the reins as commentator for the equestrian events at next year’s Rio Olympics.
Struck by the friendliness of the equestrian community, Jonathan’s challenge is to bring new people into the sport that might not have watched horses before. In the second part of our interview, we discover his key to perfect happiness and the Aggers life motto before he embarks on a riding holiday to Argentina to celebrate a significant birthday with his wife, Emma…
What did you think of Burghley and Blair as events? The Championships and the ultimate 4*?
I really enjoyed them and both events were very useful from a working perspective to see and appreciate what it all means. What was nice is they put the showjumping into context for me. I hadn’t really appreciated how that worked until I saw it and understood that it is all about faults and time and the importance of going clear and the effect each round has on rider positions right up to the last one to go.
It was really exciting at Burghley and I can imagine commentating on the showjumping at Rio. I hope I get the chance to commentate on a Brit going round in that sort of situation.
If you weren’t commentating, what would you be doing?
My Plan B was, and still is, to eventually follow my great mentor Brian Johnston, who was the front man of Test Match Special. He was the first BBC commentator and an iconic broadcaster and he and I were very similar. I was very lucky to have had 3 years working with him. We were so alike in so many ways and we just clicked.
He did Royal events and so have I. I did Diana’s funeral and William and Kate’s wedding and the Jubilee celebrations and it is the most pressurised commentating I have ever done as you just can’t get it wrong.
Funnily enough, I heard a programme just the other day, it was a tiny short clip of Brian commentating on showjumping saying “and so and so is clear” and I thought WOW. I never had any idea he had done that. It ticked a very big box that I am now going in that direction. He gave me the confidence to be the broadcaster I am.
How do you unwind?
Relaxing for me is flying my 4 seater single engine aeroplane. I love to fly off to Skegness with Emma’s cocker spaniel, Tino, next to me. We land on a grass airstrip and go for a lovely long walk where we can’t be contacted, stop somewhere for lunch and fly back. It is only a 30 minute flight. I recently worked out that Tino has reached a flying milestone and clocked up 50 hours and is half way to Australia!
What do you never leave home without?
My Ipad – it’s the modern way.
It would probably involve flying and spending time with Emma. Maybe a long lingering late Sunday lunch at one of the lovely pubs near us and then potter home to watch Downton Abbey. We don’t get much time together and that is why our forthcoming riding holiday is perfect. We are doing something we have never done before together and are really looking forward to it.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I think I am fairly easily pleased, hopefully. I can tell you what I don’t like. I hate the phone ringing all the time. When I am on a cricket tour and away for 10 weeks, my life is all about talking. Talking to a stopwatch, talking on demand, and by the end of the tour, I want to hurl the phone in the nearest pond. Just being allowed to breathe without being on call and on demand all the time – that would be perfect happiness.
What is your greatest extravagance?
We both love a nice meal and once or twice a year we’ll go somewhere really extravagant like the Fat Duck, Hambleton Hall or The Shard. Other favourites are Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and the Waterside, Bray. Somewhere where you can have a long lunch rather than a dinner, treat yourself and get a taxi home.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I think playing cricket for England is my biggest achievement but I didn’t do it very well unfortunately but at least I got there. I know I could have done better and I think it is good to know you can do better. Hopefully nurturing Test Match Special through some quite difficult times has been an achievement – with people moving on, programme cuts, pressures from other channels – I think it is in a good place at the moment and that is something that a lot of us have worked very hard to achieve.
Is there an Aggers Life Motto?
Enjoy yourself and try to be kind. I get so stressed about how unpleasant people are on social media. There is a small nasty minority who I feel sorry for and who must be pretty miserable. Treat people as you would yourself and be kind.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @Aggerscricket
Re-live the magic ‘Leg Over’ moment when Aggers and Johnners lose it on air during Test Match Special in 1991 and get the giggles:
Having interviewed Jonathan and there being some comment on his experience with the media at Blair, The Gaitpost can clarify that he wasn’t being critical of individual journalists but was contrasting the equestrian media to that of the cricketing media with a shared view of getting equestrianism broader coverage in the media.