TRIBUTES poured in from around the world of cricket yesterday, following the death of Christopher Martin-Jenkins, one of the most respected chroniclers of the sport.
The veteran journalist and broadcaster, described as a “true gentleman” and one of the “legendary characters” of the game, lost his battle with cancer on New Year’s Day morning. He was 67.
Only the previous day, his final article had been published in The Times: a tribute to the late Tony Greig, who Mr Martin-Jenkins reckoned had been spared by a fatal heart attack from the horrors of the final stages of cancer, which he described as “hell on Earth”.
Mr Martin-Jenkins, or CMJ as he was widely known, worked as a cricket columnist for The Scotsman in the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of a lengthy and illustrious career that spanned five decades and took in the most coveted posts in his profession.
The former president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in January 2012, shortly after returning from commentating duties in the United Arab Emirates.
Best known for his natural, incisive live commentaries on Test March Specials for the BBC, Mr Martin-Jenkins joined the corporation in 1970 and commentated on his first match, a one-day international, in 1972.
The following year, he succeeded Brian Johnston as the BBC’s cricket correspondent, a post he held until 1991, bar a four-year break between 1981 and 1984.
He also worked as cricket correspondent for the Daily Telegraph from 1991 to 1999, and was employed in the same position at The Times from 1999 to 2008. He wrote a column for The Scotsman between 1987 and 1991.
In a statement, his family said: “Christopher died peacefully at home 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.”
Earlier this week, Mr Martin-Jenkins wrote powerfully about the ravages of cancer in a tribute to Tony Greig, the former England captain who died last weekend.
The article published on New Year’s Eve, began: “Tony died of a heart attack on Saturday. It was probably for him a merciful release because the late stage of any cancer is often hell on Earth. So, for most, is the toxic treatment given to try to cure the disease, administered by wonderful health workers.”
The author of several books about cricket, Mr Martin-Jenkins was given an MBE in 2009 and served as president of the MCC between 2010 and 2011. Officials at Lord’s led the tributes to him yesterday, with a post on its official Twitter account bemoaning such “sad, sad news to start the new year”.
Adam Mountford, the producer of Test Match Special, described Mr Martin-Jenkins as a true gentleman who embraced the changes in cricket whilst acting as a guardian of its traditions and values.
Jonathan Agnew, his friend and colleague at the BBC, said the news was “desperately sad”, adding that Mr Martin-Jenkins had died peacefully.
He said: “He was one of cricket’s most respected writers and broadcasters. With modern media now preferring the views and experiences of former Test cricketers, Christopher’s authority and respect was gained not through a high-profile playing career, but a deep-rooted love of the game.
“It’s doubtful if anyone has contributed more in a lifetime to the overall coverage of cricket than Christopher.”