Obituary: Christopher Martin-Jenkins


Bede's Prep School alumnus and Test Match Special commentator Christopher Martin-Jenkins, MBE, died of cancer on New Year's Day at the age of 67.

Mr Martin-Jenkins, who attended Bede's Prep School in the 1950's, joined the BBC in 1970 and commentated on his first match, a one-day international, in 1972. In 1973 he then succeeded Brian Johnston as the BBC's cricket correspondent, a post he held until 1991.

He was also cricket correspondent of the Daily Telegraph from 1991 to 1999 and of The Times from 1999 to 2008.

Alan Wells, ex-England cricketer and Head of Cricket at Bede's, said of Mr Martin-Jenkins, "As a professional cricketer you frequently come into contact with representatives of the media. Quite regularly you come away from conversations and realise that although the journalist would ask very pertinent questions, unless they were former cricketers themselves, they wouldn't 'get it'. Not so with CMJ."

"Of all the journalists I came across throughout my 21 year career CMJ 'got it' properly. He genuinely understood the mind-games you would contend with, the technical difficulties of playing fast bowling, the skill required to play a top class spinner and the physical exhaustion a fast bowler would suffer bowling on a flat pitch in the middle of August."

"Not only that - he would describe it perfectly, whether it was in print or via the spoken word, over the radio for Test Match Special."

During Mr Martin-Jenkins' time at Bede's there were three Martin-Jenkins at the school, all either brothers or cousins of Christopher's. Christopher's father Dennis, also an old boy of Bede's Prep School, was Managing Director of Ellerman Lines and due to this Sir John Ellerman occasionally visited the school.

Mr Nick Danvers, one of Christopher's peers at Bede's Prep School, said of him, "Even when we were boys, Christopher was cricket mad. We used to buy cricket score books and pretend England was playing Australia, or whoever."

"We each had an 'Owzat' set, which were metal hexagonal-type cylinders that you rolled along your desk. One recorded the runs scored but also had one side with Owzat on. If that came up you rolled the other cylinder that recorded if you were out or not. We played whole cricket matches this way!"

"The trick was to play the game in class quietly enough that the teacher didn't hear!"

Mr Martin Jenkins was diagnosed with cancer in January 2012, shortly after returning from commentating duties in the United Arab Emirates.

His Test Match Special colleague and friend, current BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew, was among those who paid tribute to the journalist.

"CMJ, as he was widely known, was one of cricket's most respected writers and broadcasters," said Agnew.

"With modern media now preferring the views and experiences of former Test match cricketers, Christopher's authority and respect was not gained from a high-profile playing career, but a deep-rooted love of the game linked to a strong protective instinct which helped him earn the most coveted position of president of the MCC [Marylebone Cricket Club]."

"It is doubtful that anyone has contributed more in a lifetime to the overall coverage of cricket than Christopher Martin-Jenkins."

A statement from Christopher's family said: "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."

Mr Martin-Jenkins was appointed an MBE in 2009 and served as the MCC's president in 2010-11.

His son Robin played county cricket for Sussex before retiring in 2010.

Mr Wells, who played for Sussex with Robin, said of Christopher, "It's often said when someone passes away that they were unique. In my experience CMJ certainly was.

"He will be greatly missed."