Legendary Cricket Commentator Martin-Jenkins Dies At Age 67
Test Match Special commentator CHRISTOPHER MARTIN-JENKINS "has died of cancer at the age of 67," according to the BBC. Martin-Jenkins joined the BBC in '70 and commentated on his first match, a one-day int'l, in '72. In '73, he succeeded BRIAN JOHNSTON as the BBC's cricket correspondent, a post he held until '91, with a break between '81-84. He was cricket correspondent of the Daily Telegraph from '91-99 and of The Times from '99-08. A family statement said, "Christopher died peacefully at home this morning (Tuesday) after his brave resistance to cancer. The family is extremely proud of all that he did to pass on his love of cricket worldwide with his gift of communicating through the spoken and written word. He was above all a much loved husband, brother, father and grandfather" (BBC, 1/1). A LONDON TIMES obituary noted Martin-Jenkins "came to be known within cricketing circles by his initials," CM-J, like his mentor and first employer, cricket commentator E.W. SWANTON. Martin-Jenkins became "the unofficial successor to Swanton as the guardian of the game’s values." Martin-Jenkins was "intrinsically withdrawn," and "metamorphosed into a fluent speaker and splendid mimic once behind a microphone." Time-keeping, on account of his workload, organization and difficulties with new technology, "was not his strong point." One manuscript for a book was left in a taxi, and, "amid great hilarity among his colleagues," he once mistook a TV remote control for his mobile phone when on tour. He "could not work out why he could not put through a call" (LONDON TIMES, 1/2).
REMEMBRANCES POUR IN: In London, Derek Pringle wrote had "Martin-Jenkins been fictional he would have been one of the great comic inventions, a hybrid of Basil Fawlty and Bertie Wooster." He continued to contribute columns to The Times until as recently as Monday, when he wrote about the death of former England test cricket captain TONY GREIG. BBC Cricket Correspondent JONATHAN AGNEW was among those who gave "universally affectionate" accolades. Agnew: "CMJ was one of cricket’s most respected writers and broadcasters. Considering the years he worked as editor of The Cricketer magazine, and as correspondent for the BBC twice, The Daily Telegraph and The Times, and 40 years commentating on Test Match Special and the many books he wrote, it is doubtful that anyone has contributed more in a lifetime to the overall coverage of cricket." Former England captain IAN BOTHAM tweeted, "Very sad to hear of the death of the 'Major', Christopher Martin-Jenkins. Our thoughts are with the family. A true Gentleman" (TELEGRAPH, 1/1). CNN's Elizabeth Yuan noted England and Wales Cricket Board Chair GILES CLARKE said, "Cricket has lost one of its greatest champions." ECB CEO David Collier added, "Christopher -- or CMJ -- as he was universally known was quite simply a cricketing institution." Among remembrances, SCYLD BERRY of The Telegraph called Martin-Jenkins' knowledge of cricket "encyclopedic," and MIKE SELVEY of The Guardian wrote the initials "CMJ" were "synonymous with the very best in cricket journalism, both spoken and written," and "the game has lost perhaps the best friend it ever had" (CNN, 1/2).
FISHCAKES AND BUTTERCUP PIE: The LONDON TIMES also wrote Martin-Jenkins was "a gentleman of the old school who always made younger or less experienced reporters feel welcome." He was a "gifted and indefatigable writer who never let an editor down, however trying his time zone or onerous his other tasks." He believed cricket should be played "always to win, always fairly, always with a sense of enjoyment," and that is how he lived (LONDON TIMES, 1/2). In Dubai, Peter Baxter noted Martin-Jenkins' radio commentary style "was detailed and meticulous, belying the affectionate reputation he built up on Test Match Special for absent-mindedness and lateness, trademark characteristics that he seemed sometimes to celebrate." Legendary also were his idiosyncratic curses, "Fotheringay Thomas!" or "Fishcakes and buttercup pie!," whenever a minor crisis beset his life (GULF NEWS, 1/1).