Our Jonathan Agnew interview

Here’s our interview with BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew – the backstory for which is here.

It was a really interesting conversation, and we’re very grateful to Aggers for finding the time to speak to us and share his thoughts.

He discusses the recent criticism of the cricket media over their approach to KP-gate, and the apparent breakdown in relations between some journalists and members of the cricketing public. Aggers airs his views on reaction to the Paul Downton interview, and where Twitter users should draw the line between feedback and abuse.

Plus, his thoughts on the absence of cricket on terrestrial TV, how England can regain the Ashes in 2015 – and will he reveal his all-time favourite TMS summariser?

I began by asking what had prompted him to get in touch with The Full Toss…

2016-02-17T17:44:19+00:00May 28th, 2014|Interviews, News, PakvEng2015|40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. James Hindle May 28, 2014 at 7:16 am - Reply

    Well done Max!

    Curious that the BBC Cricket Correspondent is not a BBC employee. I did not see that one coming.

    Has he forgiven TFT its tweets and unblocked you?

    • Annie Weatherly-Barton May 28, 2014 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      He hasn’t unblocked me but I did write to him via TMS. I don’t believe I was abusive towards him but I did ask him a question that he obviously didn’t like. I do think that Aggers may lack understanding about Twitter. It’s always difficult to say what you want without sounding clipped and remote. It just goes with the territory. Still at least Aggers had the gumption to talk to you Maxie and that was good.

  2. gw74 May 28, 2014 at 9:55 am - Reply

    right well the first point is drivel. He is confusing the social aspects of social media with the debating aspects. To claim that the validity of a point someone makes should be judged in the context of their age, gender or amount of experience in the game is a fallacious argument of the most basic kind. It is called the “argument from authority”. Look it up, Aggers. A person may be right they may be wrong. It is more likely they are wrong if they don’t know much about cricket, but that doesn’t PROVE anything. There are only strong arguments and weak arguments. Barristers aren’t experts. they just argue the points. But Aggers wants to know, is the barrister a man or a woman? How old are they? what was their degree subject? Have they ever actually robbed a bank? Jesus.

    Suddenly all this stuff about KP becomes clear. That is what the ECB and the press corps think. “These people aren’t in the game, they don’t know what they are talking about”. And that is why they are not properly arguing and investigating. Aggers’s opening salvo here is merely an attempt to say this politely. And groupthink has allowed this fallacious thinking to endure.

    To put it a way you might understand, Aggers: you are playing the man, not the ball.

    It doesn’t matter what you think you know or anyone knows, or what age or sex they are or how much you think they know about cricket. Do your job, Aggers. Get the facts, and debate the points.

    I’m 3 minutes in. This is going well.

    • Pam Nash May 28, 2014 at 10:55 am - Reply

      You totally miss his point – if you meet or know someone in real life you have a context in which to judge the tenor of their comments. If he has no context & the first he knows of someone is to receive abuse, then human nature dictates that he will judge someone on that comment – as would we all.

      • James Morgan May 28, 2014 at 10:58 am - Reply

        Totally agree Pam. I think you’re reading too much into something that isn’t really there gw74. He certainly meant no prejudice. He just used labels descriptively to illustrate the fact he doesn’t know tweeters from Adam.

        • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 11:09 am - Reply

          What he thinks he meant and the actual implications of what he says are not necessarily the same thins. Why is “the fact he doesn’t know tweeters from Adam” relevant to the point at hand? It isn’t. Please get this.

      • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 10:59 am - Reply

        My comment refutes all of your points.

        Also, define “abuse”.

        • Pam Nash May 28, 2014 at 11:15 am - Reply

          Abuse? Here’s an example….which I found so amazing I bookmarked it. If the very first contact you had with someone, in real life or on Twitter, was when they told you to ‘Get your facts right before you open your mouth’ how would you react? Because I know how I would….

          https://twitter.com/rabbitsj70/status/246130592490614784

          • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 11:41 am - Reply

            “Before you open your mouth” is rude, but it is not abuse. Did he have his facts right? The person who tweeted is a KP fan, tensions were high and she was clearly angry. Is that a blocking offence? Man up.

      • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 11:26 am - Reply

        Here’s another example. You’re at a school debating competition against another school. You have never met the people you are debating against. All you know is their name. The first words you hear one of them say is: “Pam’s attempt to argue xyz is absurd because…”. Problem?

        • Pam Nash May 28, 2014 at 11:41 am - Reply

          No – but there would have been if they’d said ‘Get your facts right before you open your mouth’. Do you see the subtle difference?

          • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 11:52 am - Reply

            No we are talking here about whether it matters that Aggers knows them. Levels of rudeness is a separate point, which we are discussing on the other branch of this thread.

            • Pam Nash May 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm - Reply

              My final point – Aggers is not on Twitter as part of his employment, but voluntarily. It would, for me, be a big loss if the levels of abuse caused him to think “Why should I put up with this?” and leave Twitter. Politeness costs nothing…..but seems an alien concept to some….

              • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 12:39 pm

                your comment belongs on the other branch of the thread, the branch about abuse.

                Still don’t know what do you mean by “abuse”? the example you gave above was not abuse. What about all the reasoned criticism, which is also not abuse, which is legitimate criticism of the shortcomings of his approach to the ECB as exposed by the KP affair, which Aggers mistakes for abuse, which he blocks and ignores, thus fails to learn from, dooming himself to repeat the same mistakes, and continue to lose the support of the public?

  3. Dmitri Old May 28, 2014 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Good interview, Agnew makes some good points, but there are also some misconceptions on his part as to what makes us tick and where we come from. Well, talking from my standpoint.

    A lot to take in and consider, though. But fair play to both of you….

  4. James Morgan May 28, 2014 at 11:21 am - Reply

    Good interview by Aggers. We really appreciate you giving us the opportunity to ask some pertinent questions – without hiding behind a confidentiality agreement 😉

    I can understand many of his frustrations. I’ve seen people absolutely assassinate my articles on other cricket forums, but there’s little you can do about it. It’s particularly frustrating when they completely miss the point and misrepresent what you say.

    The only issue I have with Aggers’ answers is the bit where he says the views of Tremlett & Carberry are essentially irrelevant compared to Cook & Prior. I don’t think this is fair. It wasn’t just Carberry and Tremlett, we’ve seen quotes from Swann, Root and Stokes too, plus we know that Broad was frustrated at KP’s omission from the T20 World Cup squad. Basically, it seems as though Cook and Prior were the only players who actually had a problem with KP – perhaps because they were the ones criticised for England’s poor tactics this winter, and were the most vulnerable to the criticisms of a straight talking teammate.

    The most revealing part of the interview was when Aggers defended his style of questioning in his Downton interview. Rather than taking a Paxman approach of deliberately trying to play devil’s advocate (and getting interviewees on the defensive) he personally believes it’s better to make subjects feel relaxed in the hope of coaxing more information out of them. Although this is frustrating for angry fans, who want to see the decision makers held accountable, it is a perfectly legitimate way for a journalist to operate in my opinion.

    • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 11:49 am - Reply

      His comments on Carberry/Tremlett are wrong in precisely the same way the points about him not knowing tweeters is wrong. it is all the same basic fallacious “argument from authority”.

      The problem with the Downton interview was not the softly-softly approach, it’s the fact Aggers did not follow up properly on the answers Downton gave. It has nothing to do with manner.

    • Simon K May 28, 2014 at 11:56 am - Reply

      The answer to that question was most revealing. Firstly, I don’t believe that Downton would have refused to answer the question about the players’ comments – these are quotes that have been made on the record, when it would presumably have been easier not to answer or to tow the ECB line, and it would have been quite possible to address them without going into specifics. Secondly, Broad’s comment began with the words “you often see things differently from the stands…” and went on, essentially, to defend KP’s conduct in Australia and to undermine Downton’s position. That brings the question of players contradicting Downton on topic as a subject in and of itself, as it undermines *even the limited information he has put on the record*, leaving ‘specifics’ aside.

      IMO the style of interviewing is slightly beside the point, as you can take the courteous Agnew approach while still being forensic, and you can take the aggressive Paxo approach and end up missing key points and letting the interviewee off the hook (Paxo does this more often than not nowadays, in fact – you can tell he usually hasn’t read his brief, or has perhaps not even been given one). Agnew’s approach is fine in itself, but even allowing for the avoidance of ‘specifics’ it was not forensic. Downton was able to deliver his lines largely without disruption.

      • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 12:24 pm - Reply

        If Aggers is clearly struggling to get this. he just needs some “executive journalistic training” on forensic interview technique for covering serious matters like this with his cricket correspondent hat on.

    • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      Just to expand on this a bit. the approach of “deliberately trying to play devil’s advocate” is nothing to do with Paxman’s abrasiveness. it is simply the tried and tested debating technique which dates back Plato’s Dialogues with Socrates. It has nothing to do with manner. You can be as relaxing and “coaxing” or abrasive as you like when doing this. It’s just a question of properly following up on answers, to-ing and fro-ing until the point has been fully explored.

    • James Hindle May 28, 2014 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      Your last point is a good one. For every Paxman there is a Lorraine Kelly. If Aggers sees himself more like Ms Kelly, absolutely fine!

      Indeed, there are very few media interviewers who go in hard on sportsmen. Which is perhaps yet another thing Alex Ferguson must answer for one day.

      • gw74 May 28, 2014 at 1:23 pm - Reply

        except it’s not fine for Aggers to be like Lorraine Kelly. He is the BBC’s cricket correspondent. we rely on him to hold the ECB to account. Which he ain’t doing properly.

        • James Hindle May 29, 2014 at 11:45 am - Reply

          Then you are a) naive as to whom the ECB are accountable to, and b) relying on an individual – which is never wise – for something he he has no power accomplish.

          • gw74 May 29, 2014 at 2:44 pm - Reply

            Are you joking? do you deny that a core role of journalism is to hold to account those with power and influence?

            The BBC relies on Jonathan Agnew to do this for them, because he is their cricket correspondent. We the public rely on him, together with all other cricket journalists, of which he is perhaps the most prominent.

            A journalist can achieve holding the ECB to account by finding out what they are doing, and reporting it.

            “Naive”. On you jog.

  5. gw74 May 28, 2014 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    exactly!

  6. Annie Weatherly-Barton May 28, 2014 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    Brilliantly done Maxie. ten out of ten. Aggers was very good. My only beef with it was when he said that Downton wouldn’t be able to say anything because of the agreement with KP etc etc. Why then did Downton feel he had the right to say this:
    “I watched every ball and I’ve never seen anyone as disinterested or distracted on a cricket field as Kevin. It led me to talk to every person on the management team within England and a lot outside it. I also talked to quite a few senior players and couldn’t find one supporter who said ‘we want KP to stay in the side’.

    Surely this bit of stuff breaks the “gagging” order? Cannot say anything? Downton has surely flouted his own “gagging” order? Why did Aggers think this was okay? I don’t think it is right. And who were these “senior players” he talked to? The hapless Cook and Prior? The ones that set up the private meeting for the players to air their feelings about Flower and then went off to inform Flower? The oh so private dressing room whereby everything that is said in the Dressing room stays in the Dressing Room? Although in this case it only applied to Cook and Prior’s underlings? Cook couldn’t do the job and was utterly useless. Flower was acting like a madman. None of the players were happy. So much for “senior players!” If this is the level of senior players then we’re doomed.

    And this:
    “We would have been quite happy to let his contract run out but his team pushed to terminate it,” Downton said. “Kevin wanted to be free to play where he wanted, especially with the IPL auction coming up. He won a big contract because of it.”

    This suggests that Pietersen was greedy and wanted to play for IPL instead of playing for England. That just isn’t true though is it? The ECB at their press conference had said that Pietersen wouldn’t be playing for England anymore.

    This is where I find the ECB calculating, vindictive and thoroughly nasty. They have drip dripped their nasty stuff since the fall out whilst forcing KP to be silent. That is the part that needs clearing up for me.

  7. Tregaskis May 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    First, I think it was admirable of Agnew to engage with Pringle’s keyboard warriors. I do not agree with many aspects of what he had to say, but he had the balls to turn up and face up to questions. That deserves some kudos.

    I hope to put up a piece somewhere soon addressing a few of the issues that emerged from the interview, but in the wider context of the relationship between the press and the ECB.

    Kudos to you, too, Maxie.

    • Dmitri Old May 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm - Reply

      I’ve written some stuff (drafted, which is rare for me, as I usually post straight away), trying to explain how misconceived some of Agnew’s assumptions of where we come from. I’ll stick it up tomorrow.

      Although not strictly the same type of blog that I do, if you had to ask me which blog inspired me the most it is one called Fire Joe Morgan. It is on baseball, but it skewers journalists and broadcasters for many of the same sins our journalists and broadcasters commit. I don’t have the time, the aptitude or the ability to get anywhere near that standard (the main man there who went by the blogging name Ken Tremendous, I think writes for TV), but it is one I look at and think “imagine if that happened here”.

      Look forward to hearing your take, Tregaskis.

  8. […] quick recommend, if you’ve not already seen or heard it, for Maxie’s interview with Jonathan Agnew on The Full Toss. Fair play to both parties, but Agnew’s misunderstanding of the blogging and tweeting […]

  9. c33 May 28, 2014 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    The problem Agnew has over the whole KP thing has been that he has taken an antagonistic view right from the moment PIetersen came into the side, constantly questioning whether he should even be allowed in the side, whether his switch hitting is illegal, getting out to silly shots despite scoring 13,000 international runs.

    His coverage of the whole affair has always been from whatever side Pietersen isn’t on. Whilst he may not be as abusive as social media commentors, he is nonetheless just as guilty with a persistent stirring up of irrelevant tensions. His interview with Downton was lacking in so many questions, and he refuses to represent or acknowledge cricket fans who loved watching Pietersen in the side playing the big shots that he played.

  10. Simon K May 28, 2014 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    One more comment from me – I thought his assessment of how people could get the best out of Twitter was quite instructive. He said (rough paraphrase) that he could use it for things like plugging his two man show with Graham Swann, while the fans could use it to ask questions and get answers from people like him. There wasn’t any reference to his using it to learn things from the supporters, despite the fact that many ‘bloggers and tweeters’ get around the county grounds a lot more than he is able to. Admittedly when you get as many @s as he does it is not always easy to sift them for quality but it does suggest to me that he sees Twitter in quite hierarchical terms – exactly what, IMO, it ought not to be but has sadly become with the influence of celebrity culture.

  11. Maxie Allen May 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Many thanks to all of you for your comments, and kind words, and for getting involved in this discussion.

    The most important thing, really, is fair play to Aggers for doing it in the first place – especially as he’d realise that whatever he said would be unpicked and analysed afterwards.

    He genuinely wants to clear the air and convene a dialogue with the below-the-line community. And exactly how often has someone in his position (having attracted controversy) ever done anything like this? You couldn’t imagine Derek Pringle being up for it.

    Aggers put a lot of trust in me, especially seeing as the starting point was some rather bad blood between us. For all he knew, I could easily have distorted the interview, abused his goodwill, or mis-used the material (which I did not, I must stress!).

    In terms of what he said – I think the point about Twitter is that the lines between disagreement and criticism, and between criticism and abuse, are both very fine. I still think that journalists maybe need a thicker thin sometimes. They’ve chosen to put their work and their personality into the public domain for an audience. That doesn’t justify aggression, personal abuse, ugly language, or threats, of course.

    But perhaps what we might see as fair play, because we think we know them personally, comes across in a way we don’t expect. And at the receiving end, the journalist either takes it too personally, or reads more hostility into the Tweet than was intended. As Aggers said, expounding a carefully calibrated view in precise language, and make it both thought provoking, eye-catching, and not impolite, is very difficult in 140 characters.

    Gw74’s point about the debating society is a good one. On Twitter/blogs, you know you’re in a debating environment, so introductions are often superfluous. Even here on this backwater blog, we have anonymous commenters who come on for the first time and slag us off. For me that’s part of the territory, but then again I suppose Twitter is different in that it’s much more personal and invasive of your space – your phone pings every time.

    In fairness, Simon, Aggers did actually say that he benefits from his Twitter followers – he picks up on observations and jokes and uses them on air.

    I still think there’s something in the “argument from authority” point. One other thing I’d like to put to the press, should I get a similar opportunity again, is that in general they often seem to say “well you don’t know the truth about KP, but I do, because I’ve heard off the record. I can’t tell you what I know, so just take my word for it, OK?”. That attitude surfaces too often for comfort, and makes us, BTL, feel disenfranchised and patronised.

    On the Downton front – that was one of the issues on which Aggers and I first locked horns originally. I still don’t agree with him, but at least we’ve heard his rationale and the strategy he’d mapped out for the interview.

    Downton could perhaps have been asked to clarify the “quite a few senior players” line without naming names. How many senior players? How many did you ask? Did you approach the whole squad for their views? If not, why not? Why did Swann sing KP’s praises?

    To digress slightly, Carberry and Tremlett came up in the interview. Looking again at what Downton said – that pair might not count as senior players, but I’d contend their views are still relevant to whether or not there was support for KP in the dressing room. Downton claims that KP had to go to allow the building of a new team. For that to be true, it suggests that he was causing widespread problems in the dressing room, not just narking Cook and Prior. And if KP had good relations with the younger or less prominent players (as all evidence suggests), then that completely and utterly contradicts Downton’s entire argument, as it means that if anything KP’s presence would be beneficial to the construction of a new side around emerging players.

    By reduction, Downton could only have been referring by “senior players” to Cook, Prior (who wasn’t even in the team), and Anderson. Why would their estrangement from KP pose an obstacle to the re-booting of the team?

    On this post here, I compiled a list of all the public comments on KP by other members of the team since February:

    https://www.thefulltoss.com/england-cricket-blog/paul-downton-speaks-kp-fights-back/

    But anyway – thanks again for all your comments, and I’m glad you thought the interview was a worthwhile thing to do.

    • dlpthomas May 29, 2014 at 2:30 am - Reply

      “if anything KP’s presence would be beneficial to the construction of a new side around emerging players”

      I suspect the prospect of KP’s influencing young players to think for themselves and question authority may have been the ECB’s worst nightmare.

    • princeofporkupine May 29, 2014 at 8:20 am - Reply

      Much respect all round Max, great work and fair play to Aggers for speaking at length and engaging with the discussion.

  12. Mark-My-Wordz May 31, 2014 at 6:33 am - Reply

    ” Aggers airs his views on reaction to the Paul Downton interview, and where Twitter users should draw the line between feedback and abuse.”

    S who defines the difference? Agnew – so Agnew remains in control, defines the terms and acts accordingly – no change there then!!!

  13. Annie Weatherly-Barton May 31, 2014 at 9:08 am - Reply

    Have you seen this yet Maxie and James. Worth a column aye? Downton has had to apologise for what he said about Pietersen on TMS. At last they have been called to answer their attacks on Pietersen. Not before time either.
    http://www.cricket.com.au/news-list/2014/5/31/ecb-apologise-to-kevin-pietersen

    • Maxie Allen June 2, 2014 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      James has touched on this in our most recent post.

      Thanks again to everyone for all your comments.

  14. […] account. I have a Twitter row with Jonathan Agnew, which eventually leads to buried hatchets and an interview with him for this site. Afterwards I vow never again to refer to anyone, in copy, by their nickname. A spicier dose […]

  15. […] time when the ECB was under the cosh was a serious misjudgment. Agnew acknowledged as much in an audio interview on The Full Toss. The YouTube screening is now set to private, though it was very public when […]

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