NORMAN DE MESQUITA 1932-2013
If the jazz saxophonist Stan Getz can be known as ‘The Sound’, then in his prime, Norman de Mesquita could justifiably have been dubbed ‘The Voice’.
He had harboured an ambition to be an actor, but for whatever reason Norman’s dreams were not to be realised.
Fortunately the theatre world’s loss became sport’s gain. Initially The Voice joined BBC Radio London for whom Norman reported on football - he was an Arsenal fan - ice hockey and cricket among other sports, and whenever the chance arose, he would undertake commentary, on cricket matches in particular. He became an extremely knowledgeable and accomplished commentator, able to bring authority to his broadcasts, and of course his masterful voice complemented Norman’s undoubted ability in front of a microphone. In fact The Voice was appreciated so much by his bosses that Norman was chosen to host Sportsline, BBC Radio London’s Sunday morning sports magazine programme, a job he carried out for ten years, before leaving the BBC and taking his talents and his voice to LBC, the independent, commercial local radio station serving Greater London. He made the ideal host for a show such as that because Norman had the ‘gift of the gab’. He was a great conversationalist, with a mind that could move effortlessly from subject to subject - either outside or inside sport.
The Voice was truly special, a mellifluous baritone that was always perfectly modulated. Norman’s sense of drama was able to inject itself into that voice to convey the excitement, the highs, the lows and the climax of every event that he was covering, yet he never needed to raise the decibels. There was never a question of Norman having to shout in order to capture all the the drama, which was just as well because in those days there were no separate broadcasting areas in the press boxes around the country. A raised voice in a cricket press box, particularly at writing up time, was most definitely frowned upon.
The voice was also in demand at other big sporting events, where Norman would take on the role of public address announcer. The Voice was used to great effect at the Masters Snooker Tournament in the competition’s early years at Wembley, as well as at the pre-Wimbledon tennis tournaments at Eastbourne and Beckenham and Middlesex employed Norman as their PA announcer at their out-grounds.
It was therefore a cruel twist of fate that, during emergency neuro-surgery some 14 years ago, he suffered a stroke, which robbed him of that wonderful voice, and robbed his colleagues of some great conversation, not to mention plenty of witty asides. He did not give up, far from it. Norman persevered and regained a great deal of of his speech, but despite therapy, he struggled, and the result was that it left him increasingly frustrated, and even angry, especially when his slurred speech had people thinking he was drunk. The indignation of tee-totaller Norman left him further frustrated with the knowledge that he could not round on the accuser and put them in their place with one of his perfectly delivered put-down lines, of which he had an ample store.
The son of Herbert, a solicitor, and Rachel, Samuel Norman Bueno de Mesquita - his first name appeared only on his birth certificate, passport and bank account - was of Hispanic Jewish stock, and he was proud of his Sephardic ancestry. He attended Wessex Gardens Primary School in Golders Green, before moving on to Christ’s College in Finchley, whose alumni include Lord Sachs, the chief Rabbi, and Charles Saatchi. He had always been interested in drama, but, sadly, after leaving school he was unable to fulfil his thespian ambitions and his acting was confined to local productions. Instead he poured his efforts into applying his theatrical talents to sporting commentary for the radio to the benefit of a great many people.
It was a thing of wonder to observe Norman working in a cricket press box. He used to keep an immaculate scoresheet, it saved him from having to ring the official scorers every few minutes for “minutes, balls, fours, sixes”. It was extremely useful to those newspaper reporters present in the press box, who hungered for ‘factoids’. And, remarkably, all the while that he would be giving his radio report, or doing a five minute stint of commentary, Norman would carry on scoring, keeping tabs on every ball bowled, recording them meticulously in his neat handwriting. He didn’t miss a trick, thus he was able to announce for example, a bowler’s or a team’s wicket-to-wicket details, to his radio audience as well as simultaneously to the rest of us. Norman was also able to provide his press box colleagues with other useful facts and figures from the comprehensive records that he maintained throughout the season. The discipline he demonstrated with his record-keeping was exemplary.
On top of all that he could also pen a few words, and reports of his appeared in several national newspapers, among them The Daily Telegraph and The Times.
If cricket was his first love - Norman was a founding member and former President of the Seaxe Club, the official organisation for Middlesex supporters, a long-standing member of MCC, a former committee man in the Cricket Writers’ Club - then ice hockey came a close second. Although it is hard to imagine him on ice, Norman actually learned to ice-skate on the way to becoming a well-respected ice hockey umpire - and you have to be an extremely proficient skater to become an umpire. He used to officiate in domestic competitions in the 50s and 60s when matches involving teams such as Wembley Lions would draw coverage from BBC television. He also used to travel to Canada to watch a clutch of Stanley Cup games live, invariably travelling with the late Peter Byrne, another former member of the Cricket Writers’ Club.
Norman was one of the great ‘characters’ of the press cricket circuit, whose contribution to the daily activities in this specialised, not to say pressurised, environment was always welcome. He had a great sense of fun and enjoyed the banter and repartee that was so much a part of a cricket press box, where a lot of people (in those days) were brought together for three or four days, and for up to ten hours a day.
In the four decades or so that Norman spent covering cricket he witnessed swingeing changes to the game. He also saw journalism undergo a wholesale transformation as new technology was gradually embraced by the hacks and their rags. To his credit, Norman generally accepted all the changes that have taken place, from the introduction of limited overs cricket, to four day county championship matches and even Twenty20 - although perhaps there might have been the occasional snide aside about this last.
His death means the Cricket Writers’ Club has lost a valued member, while Middlesex have lost a devoted fan, and the world of cricket has lost another respected voice.
Frith Farm House, Kent
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.
Trevor Chesterfield, the former cricket writer of the Pretoria News and a global cricket nut extraordinaire, died yesterday aged 75 in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, where he had been living and working for the past decade.
He died shortly after the end of the 2011 World Cup, which he had been reporting on in Sri Lanka. He was present at almost all the matches held there last month and appeared in reasonable health, though he had many long-standing medical issues. A couple of days before his death, he went to a talk show and complained of the unbearable cold in the TV studio. Yesterday morning, he fell off his
bed while asleep and was taken to the hospital in Moratuwa, but died on the way.
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, called him a “true lover of the game”, and said readers, cricket administrators players and fans would miss his writing. a “fair, balanced and fearless journalist with strong views on the game, under- pinned by a genuine desire to see cricket continue to flourish.”A veteran cricket journalist and author, he wrote the biography of South African pace bowler Fanie de Villiers and a book on South Africa’s cricket captains. Chesterfield, known as “Chesters” or “Chezzie” in South Africa, devoted his life
to the game in a way that those who didn’t know him would not be able to appreciate or even comprehend. Sri Lanka Cricket also paid tribute to him for bringing an “international flavour into the local cricket columns”
He was a promising spin bowler in his younger days before his career was cut short and he was said to have been a fairly accomplished rally driver in his native New Zealand. He also found time for a reporting stint inVietnam during that war.
Something his colleagues avoided at all costs – and something only the very stout-hearted repeated – was being driven by Chessie, who set the standard for South African taxi drivers!”Chesterfield was “old school” and then some. He never understood how anyone
could be remotely interested in other sports. Even within the cricket world, it was Test cricket that he particularly revered and was less than euphoric about the limited-overs varieties.
Current Titans coach Chris van Noordwyk described Chesterfield as someone who lived each day for cricket. “The game was his life. He was passionate and dedicated. We have millions of good memories of him,” said Van Noordwyk. The editor of the Independent on Saturday, Clyde Bawden, was his former sports editor at The Pretoria News.
“Chessie was literally addicted to cricket,” Bawden recalled. I have never, before or since, met anyone so fiercely committed to his sport – or any other. Owen Murray Trevor Chesterfield was one of the true eccentrics in cricket journals and newspapers around the world up until his death.
He continued to contribute to cricket journalism and was obsessed with the sport – his e-mail handle was “lbwbambrose”, a nickname given to the diminutive journal- ist by Bob Woolmer: a reference to the limp he was afflicted with following an accident. He leaves behind two sons and a daughter.