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The first thing to know about the cricketing podcast Tailenders is that it’s only very barely about cricket.
Hosted by Radio 1’s Greg James, former Maccabees guitarist Felix White, England bowler James Anderson and caller-turned-mascot Matt ‘Mattchin’ Horan – a Bristolian shoe salesman who’s distantly related to Indian cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar – it’s more like a cricket-adjacent comedy podcast.
Tailenders had a previous life as Not Just Cricket, a Radio 5Live show hosted by James, Anderson and Anderson’s old England teammate Graeme Swann back in 2011. It was fun, but extremely cricket-centric. Which you’d think would be the point of a cricket podcast, but Tailenders is usually at its best when it’s about everything except cricket.
The magic is in Horan’s increasingly complex quiz formats, and the supportive and lovely listenership, and in odd stories like the time White got hit by a bus and, while lying on the road, got injected in the wrist by someone who said they were a doctor. The more chaotic and cack-handed everything gets, the funnier it is.
When Tailenders hit its own century of episodes in 2020, James compared the podcast’s run to a century England’s Mark Butcher scored against Australia: “Against the odds, nobody thought he’d be able to pull it off, frantic, frenetic, and sort of worked by accident.”
Anderson agreed: “Bit of a fluke.”
Brisbane, Adelaide and Uncle Sach
To understand the appeal of Tailenders, one must understand Mattchin Tendulkar. Early episodes had been quite good, but it all took off when Horan, who knew absolutely nothing about cricket, rang in at the behest of his friend to explain his tenuous family link to a legend. He soon became a regular, asking Anderson questions nobody’s ever bothered to and suggesting improvements to a game he only recently grasped.
“I guess Mattchin typifies everything we wanted this podcast to be like,” James has said. “We wanted to bring people into the game, and he’s the sort of person that we can impress our passion of the game onto, and say, ‘This is why we love it’.”
Anderson has a reputation as a bit of a grump, and at different times Tailenders has both undermined and conclusively confirmed it. A game of Horan’s invention, ‘Our Jimmy’, put forward a quote from a famous Jimmy – but was it our Jimmy who said it? A long forgotten tweet about Sandra Bulluck cuts straight through the mystique that an elite sportsman has built up over two decades, while White shows off the most infectious cackle in podcasting.
The Wizard and the Frog
A real peak of Horan’s stupid questions. If a wizard told him he could make it happen, would Anderson take £100 million and the chance to prolong his career at the top level for a decade – and keep bowling for England into his fifties – but be pursued for the rest of his life by a small frog which would kill him with a single touch?
You don’t get this sort of stuff from Paxman. This one’s a great example of the supremely daft sense of humour that joins Tailenders and its audience; during a recent tour, people dressed up as frogs and wizards in the crowd, and plans are afoot to make sure there are frogs and wizards around Australia during the upcoming Ashes series. That’s commitment.