Christopher Martin-Jenkins: 'the sound of summer' silenced
Cricket commentator who became a fixture of BBC Radio’s Test Match Special has died at 67
TRIBUTES have been pouring in for cricket correspondent Christopher Martin-Jenkins, known among the game’s fans as CMJ, who died from cancer on New Year's Day.
The 67-year-old first appeared on the BBC in 1970 and "became one of cricket’s most famous and enduring voices", according to Derek Pringle in the Daily Telegraph. His 40-year career was "spent covering the game for journalism's holy trinity: the BBC, the Daily Telegraph and The Times," Pringle added.
CMJ was a fixture on BBC Radio’s Test Match Special. Writing for the BBC, the show's current producer, Alan Mountford, described his tones as "simply the sound of summer".
He had a distinctive voice "brimming with love, the lightest possible top-dressing of irony, flowing with easy precision," wrote Simon Barnes in The Times.
Patrick Kidd, also in The Times, agreed. "Summers will certainly never sound the same," he said. The CMJ style was "based on clarity and accuracy, an impeccable understanding of his sport and the English language, and a knack of finding the perfect phrase".
Martin-Jenkins began his career in journalism at The Cricketer magazine after graduating from Cambridge in the late 1960s and also edited the magazine in the 1980s. Current editor Andrew Miller paid tribute to his "formidable career".
Jonathan Agnew, in another piece carried in The Times, commented that it was "doubtful that anyone has contributed more in a lifetime to the overall coverage of cricket".
CMJ was one of the last generation of cricket correspondents who did not play the game professionally. But a former TMS producer, Peter Baxter, told Radio 4’s Today programme that it was his meticulous attention to detail that made him special. He also recalled that when he first arrived at the BBC he was told he would be known as Christopher Jenkins, but the new arrival insisted on being given his full name even though it took up two lines in the Radio Times.
"What made him so good as a radio commentator, apart from his precise and unforced diction, was that he came closer than anyone to combining the knowledge of an expert with the enthusiasm of a student," writes Scyld Berry in the Daily Telegraph.
The tributes are united in noting that CMJ had a troubled relationship with timekeeping and modern technology. He once arrived late at Lords to commentate on a Test that was taking place at The Oval and tried to make a mobile phone call on a TV remote control.
"He was John Cleese out of Clockwise. He was always late and always trying to make up time," Jonathan Agnew told the Today programme. "The only time he ever sat down and was calm and measured was when he was commentating on TMS."