Victor James Marks is a curious creature. He’s a longstanding member of the Test Match Special team, having been there since 1990 – yet doesn’t really have a nickname (Marksers doesn’t roll of the tongue). His style and ability rarely get discussed by outside parties, probably because youngsters like Michael Vaughan and Phil Tufnell are much more outspoken than him. But we suspect he’s happy with that. And we’re about to try and rectify things – for Marks is not only integral to TMS, but he’s one of our favourite summarisers. Note that we said summariser – that’s what co-commentators used to be called, before they gained verbal diarrhea in their quest to say something about every sodding delivery (or Britain’s Got Fucking Talent in the case of Vaughan). He has the admirable knack of keeping quiet until he’s called upon – and then nailing his observation or analysis. And he’s a witty guy, with a knowing, wry chuckle. When he’s on air with Jonathan Agnew, it really does feel like two middle-aged men allowed to nip to the pub for a few quick pints on a Saturday afternoon whilst their wives are shopping for shoes.
He’s also a consistently excellent cricket correspondent for the Observer. At some point in the future 51allout will* explore the coverage of cricket in the print media, but it’s surely no surprise that the Observer and Guardian sisters are amongst those we consider to be the best.
As a player, Marks had a healthy career for Somerset as a competent off-spinner and reasonable batsman. Between 1980 and 1988 – an era when England had plenty of spinning options – he was good enough to play six Tests and 34 ODIs. He’s also one of the few English players to have been an overseas professional for an Australian state side, having played for Western Australia towards the end of his career. However he would probably say his ability was somewhat limited in his usual self-deprecating style. It should not be forgotten that for many years he had England’s best bowling figures in an ODI innings (5/20 against New Zealand).
It is odd that a stalwart of a national institution for 22 years remains unsung. But also curiously reassuring. What’s more, after a winter touring but not playing, he titled his tour diary Marks Out of XI, which is the kind of pun we can get behind. These days, at the start of every season, we always fear that some of the old guard will have been replaced on TMS by some recently-retired, reality TV star wannabe; every summer when a familar Westcountry accent tickles the airwaves for the first time, we breathe a large sigh of relief.
*don’t hold us to this