Christopher Martin-Jenkins (1945-2013)
The death of CMJ from cancer was a truly saddening way to start the year, writes Julian Guyer. Arguably the best-known Member of the Cricket Writers' Club, he held four of the 'great offices of state' in our trade, having been, the Cricket Correspondent of the BBC, the Daily Telegraph and The Times as well as the editor of the Cricketer.
He also completed the rare 'double' of being both President of the CWC, an office he held at the time of his death, and MCC, a position which provided him with unexpected controversy as well as joy.
I think David Warner, in one of several messages of condolence that made their way to me, spoke for us all when he wrote of Christopher: "This is a terrible loss. An outstanding man with a great love for cricket and a vast knowledge of the game. And always prepared to speak out strongly in support of county cricket."
But there were also, as Peter Baxter and Tony Cozier point out below, so many entertaining private 'CMJ Moments" for those of us fortunate to have shared a press or commentary box with him down the years. For my part two incidents remain vivid, with both demonstrating Christopher's fundamental decency.
My first conversation with CMJ was during a county match at Southgate when I was working for Hayters, a fact which prompted Christopher to reply: "That's where all the stars start." Which only goes to show that even a man well-known for his judgment can be wrong once in a while. The second was years later at the Oval, during the final Test of the 2005 Ashes. It so happened I was in the seat next to Christopher's in the press box. At one stage he was looking through a series of cuttings in preparation for a radio interview with Michael Grade, the then BBC chairman. One piece suggested Grade was a "bit of a schmoozer".
CMJ turned to me and, in that gloriously well-modulated voice, asked: "What does schmoozer mean?" When I asked him afterwards if I could quote the conversation for a diary piece, I was filing for the Wisden Cricketer, he gave me the go-ahead without a moment's hesitation. As a result, I was able to write: "That's what I do when it rains. I advise CMJ on Yiddish." I don't suppose I'll ever have a better line.
The late 'CMJ' Peter Baxter, who first worked with CMJ more than 40 years ago, recalls his initial impressions of a future Test Match Special colleague.
It is incongruous -- for both of us -- that I first met CMJ at Chelsea Football Club in 1970. I was producing the Outside Broadcasts department's commentary on whatever match it was and he was doing a report for the rival Sports News department (such was the strange organisation of the BBC at the time).
My department were impressed in those days by Christopher's command of the concise one-minute report, a fact which would surprise his more recent colleagues who only knew him when his relationship with the clock - any clock - had become more estranged.
When he joined Sports News, its legendary editor, Angus McKay, creator of Sports Report, told him: "We shall call you Chris Jenkins.
But Christopher stuck to his guns. "I'd prefer my full name, please." So 'CMJ' became common currency.
It was attention to detail that made him such a fine commentator and the choice of the right words to describe the action and the scene in which it was set. But what we will remember are those 'CMJ moments'.
I recall once being in the West Indies and describing to him the details of a difficult day I had just had, with everything going wrong, down to the road being dug up when I was hurrying off to get an interview. There was silence from him before he said, sadly: "My whole life's like that."
And he did the decent thing by letting us know of crises like cutting through the headphone cable from his Walkman and wondering why it had suddenly all gone so quiet. Or ringing me after the start of play at the Oval to admit he had gone to Lord's.
With the demise of Tony Greig just before Christopher, I remembered that in India in late 1976 I had set up a pre-Christmas phone-in to the England captain. It was an ambitious idea, but the arrangements were made with All India Radio. CMJ just had to get Greig to the radio station in Gauhati, where England were playing the East Zone. They ordered a taxi and Christopher told the driver, "All India Radio, please."
He knew the station was on the edge of town, but when rice paddies and green hills were going by, he thought it seemed further than he had reckoned. "How much further?" he asked.
"To Oil India?" the driver asked, as they were pulling up at the refinery.
To do him credit, Greig was amused, but -- not uniquely -- Christopher was late.
Principle and punch in Barbados Tony Cozier remembers how CMJ refused to back down after enraging Caribbean cricket followers before the healing power of rum soothed all wounds.
Christopher Martin-Jenkins. There was the unmistakable ring of an English gentleman, through and through, to the very name of my fellow (BBC Test) debutant when I first became pretentiously known as "the West Indian voice" on Test Match Special in 1973. In the nearly 40 years that followed, sharing commentary and press boxes in England and the Caribbean,turning out for his team in a Sunday match on some idyllic ground in Surrey and entertaining the usually boisterous touring media at off-day parties at our modest Barbados beach bungalow, I found CMJ to be always that. As with the numerous, heartfelt tributes that followed his passing, I recall mostly his kindness, generosity, a dry sense of humour and his devotion the game's values and traditions. And, of course, he was the radio commentator supreme.
I only became aware of the eccentricities that made him so endearing to those in the profession second-hand; I did know of his propensity to be late for his stints on TMS when Shilpa Patel, the lively, and lovely, production assistant, would dash into the press box to summon me for mine with the rebuke," You’re becoming the West Indian CMJ".
We sometimes crossed swords. I found it completely out of character when he used sport's most pejorative word, "cheating", to charge that the dominant, pace-based West Indies teams of the 1980s deliberately slowed down their over-rates which "guaranteed them from defeat" and in the infamous Rob Bailey dismissal in the 1990 Barbados Test when he reported umpire Lloyd Barker had been pressurized into changing his decision by Viv Richards' "orchestrated appeal". "If that was gamesmanship or professionalism, I'm not sure what cheating is," he said.
The public reaction was typically overblown. He was removed by the local station as part of its commentary team and the sports editor of one paper wrote that he should have been "put on a plane out of Barbados".
Even on the rest day of the Barbados Test four years later he remained wary when the landline from the Cozier beach bash was out of order (I had informed him and the others that they could file their reports from there) and the nearest pay phone had to suffice. Trouble was that it adjoined a rum shop and CMJ was well down the line for making his call. Reluctantly persuaded to join the others in the shade of the bar while they waited, CMJ was somehow identified and a hostile reception expected. A couple of rum punches soothed his nerves as did the informed cricket talk that ensued. There was not a mention of over-rates or the Rob Bailey incident. Of course, he missed his place in the telephone queue.
Well-known in particular to Members on the southern circuit, where he provided immense help as a volunteer press-box scorer, Peter died in December after suffering a heart attack upon returning from a holiday in the United States.
Like CMJ, a vice-president of the Cricket Society, he also served that organization as both Treasurer and a Trustee.
Of course, it was often possible to bump into both Mr and Mrs Byrne at Lord's. For many years Peter's late wife Lilian answered the MCC telephones, with her work highlighted by David Hopps in a piece he wrote for the 1995 Wisden.
Peter was a great ice hockey enthusiast, in common with his friend Norman de Mesquita, and it was quite something to see the pair of them in harness at Lord's or The Oval. Such was the service the rest of us got, we rarely had to bother the official scorers. It always used to surprise me how Peter, a chartered accountant by profession who also scored for BBC local radio, found time to run his own business given his devotion to sport and cricket in particular.
His booming voice and forceful manner could make Peter seem a slightly intimidating figure on first acquaintance, but he was especially helpful to me when I was starting out and I know he will be much missed by many Members.
As advised in an earlier e-mail, Peter's funeral will be held at the West London Crematorium (Harrow Road, London W10 4RA) this Wednesday (January 16) at 9.30 a.m.
After the service, people are invited by MCC to the Bowlers' Bar in the Pavilion at Lord's, where coffee and sandwiches will be served, an event which would have prompted some typically trenchant comments from Peter.