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Christopher Martin-Jenkins

The death of Christopher Martin-Jenkins severs another link between modern day cricket journalism and the few pioneering writers who took the profession forward in the post-war years. CMJ, as he came to be known, effortlessly bridged that gap between the likes of John Arlott and CLR James, the enlightened observers of the sport, and the modern-day reliance upon former professional cricketers with a gift for a finely turned phrase or observation.

It was typical of the man that he did so with style and panache. Long before the phrase ‘pay it forward’ had been coined, CMJ was a practitioner of the art, being as generous with his time, advice and encouragement to aspiring writers as his idol and later colleague Brian Johnston had been to him. Few things signified how ill he was in the last weeks of his life than the unseemly row which one of his last newspaper columns generated with a new generation of putative writers and broadcasters, his usual deftness of touch when opining upon a controversial subject deserting him at the end.

To millions, he was a mainstay of Test Match Special, providing the voice of well-bred common sense amid the hyperactive tomfoolery of Johnston, the amiable buff Henry Blofeld and the prosaic Arlott. But he was also twice cricket correspondent of the BBC (his initial stint being as replacement for Johnston), switching effortlessly between commentary, opinion and reportage in a way which others have sometimes failed to replicate, as well as bringing his writing skills to the Telegraph and later the Times.

As a writer his columns were a ‘must-read’ for any fan of the game, especially one who had in those pre-internet days been unable to follow play as it developed. His gift for reducing the day’s action to its most essential components, with insightful analysis, has been bettered by few and is almost certainly a dying art. His final retirement from the Times in 2008 and replacement by the more self-aggrandising Michael Atherton was a sad day in more than one respect.

Away from the media CMJ was a fine after dinner speaker, a golfer so keen that he even had three pitch and putt holes in his back garden, and a devoted family man who took great pride in his son Robin’s career in first-class cricket, even if he was often reluctant to talk about it.

Christopher Dennis Alexander Martin-Jenkins, 20 January 1945 – 1 January 2013

Richard O’Hagan

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