The BBC were on Sunday night facing furious criticism after deciding not to send a commentary team to cover England’s first tour to Pakistan for 17 years. It is understood a combination of cost savings and security protocols are behind the decision.
Test Match Special, cricket’s flagship radio show, will instead call the action off television images from a studio in Salford.
Julian Knight MP, the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee, told the Sunday Telegraph: “It’s a scandal that the first series in Pakistan for nearly a generation is not going to be properly covered. The BBC’s top brass always cites cost cutting, but while they waste huge sums on the likes of Gary Lineker and groan under the weight of middle managers, they cannot be taken seriously in any way.”
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 the future only be available through digital platforms despite millions being unable to access them.
Henry Blofeld, a TMS commentator for 45 years until his retirement in 2017, lamented the BBC’s failure to send to Pakistan as “jolly sad”.
Is it a question of BBC cuts? Is it a question of safety? It is a question of difficulty in getting the cooperation of the broadcasting authorities there?
“We are living in an age when everything is much tighter. It’s jolly sad but it’s a question of housekeeping, isn’t it?”
The BBC are hopeful of sending their 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 out on overseas rights in recent years to Talksport to instead concentrate on ICC events and the Ashes in Australia.
Talksport had rights to England’s tour to West Indies in March and also did not send a full commentary team, instead relying on calling the action from home with input from the ground.
Sky will be taking the international feed with their staff commentator Mark Butcher providing England analysis from Pakistan. David Gower will cover the series as one of the commentators for the host broadcaster meaning he will be back on Sky for the first time since his contract was not renewed in 2019.
The Sunday Telegraph have approached the BBC for comment.
Meanwhile, Matthew Mott, the head coach of the one-day team, has insisted that Ben Stokes and Alex Hales do not have to be “best mates” to help England win next month’s World Cup.