My Tribute to Christopher Martin-
This morning I heard with great personal grief the death of my cricketing friend CMJ. I was so shocked I did not know what to think. He was a great best friend throughout many years. It leaves a huge gap in my life. My thoughts are with his wife Judy and his family at this time. Born on January 20 1945, he died of cancer on January 1, 2013, aged only 67. He will be greatly missed by so many people.
He was a tireless and hugely knowledgeable cricket correspondent of the Times and The Daily Telegraph and commentator of Test Match Special. His research was thorough and he was a master of detail. Cricket mourns CMJ, the flawless voice of the game; the knowledge of an expert and the enthusiasm of a student. CMJ believed in cricket as a way of life, and he was the voice of summer. That's over but CMJ's voice will live on.
“Farewell to CMJ, the Major, perhaps the best friend the game ever had. Kind and generous he inspires so many memories” says his friend Mike Selvey. He says “We took him to the pub and he paid. That was pretty much when we realised how ill he was”.
Tim Rice says “CMJ, how I wished I could have had his job. My fellow cricket nut
A few days later, a friend called in at lunchtime to see how I was getting on after my very sad news. We talked about it for a while, but one never comes to terms with a sad loss; one gets used to it and remembers all the good times one has shared together. My friend told me to keep writing; I intend to do so, on my rather archaic computer (many may laugh at it but it does its job and does what I want it to do as a writing machine). Writing has become a way of life for me, just as CMJ was. I never depended on him but he was always there when I needed him through sad occasions and joyous ones.
The passing of this inspirational figure leaves us all the poorer. Our institutions need many more outsiders with the enthusiasm and knowledge of CMJ. He created words and delivered them with a clarity that belied a life in chaos. Jonathan Agnew, BBC cricket correspondent, says that for all of CMJ's little moments the professional within would always prevail. His opinions earned the highest respect, says the England captain Alastair Cook.
A civilising influence on the game, his values filtered even into the minds of ambitious professionals, as Ed Smith recollects from his playing days. From his schooldays at Marlborough College onwards, CMJ never stopped learning about the game he loved so dearly.
I’m sure many of you know that he was a great friend of mine for many years. On several occasions I’ve had the opportunity to have lunch with him at his house in Horsham, which gave me great pleasure.
I think, if memory serves me right, I met him first in about 1972 under the grandstand
at Lord’s, sheltering from the rain on a Friday of the test match against Australia
Later, during one winter, I went to a Cricket Society meeting at which CMJ was the speaker. During the interval, I went up to the front and introduced myself and asked him if he could read some articles by Neville Cardus onto tape for me. To my surprise, he said he would, and, not long after, a cassette came through the post. He had done it the afternoon before his departure to India.
He was the BBC cricket correspondent. He visited me at Princess Marina Centre once and also came to my house on Bean Hill on a number of occasions. He also came to Lovat Fields and gave an excellent talk about the MCC on my 70th birthday.
During my visits to Australia he found time to have a meal with me and have a good conversation. During the 1998 tour on Christmas Eve I waited three hours for him because the England captain Alec Stewart called a press conference at the last moment to tell everybody that England were going to win that match. I think they did too. It went on quite long into the evening.
I always enjoyed his commentary and I feel he has been up there with the best commentators on the radio. He always showed a positive interest in what I was doing and without doubt he will leave a big hole in my life. I shall miss him more than words can express. I’m pleased that I was able give him a picture I painted of Lord’s, which he put up on the wall where everyone enjoyed it. He gave me a lot of encouragement to carry on with my work.
At one Lord’s test he took me up to the commentary box when they had it up in the pavilion. When he walked up behind me one day and I asked him if it would be possible, he looked me up and down, because I had not got a tie on, as you need to wear one to enter there. The doorman looked at Christopher and me and said, “go on then”. It was about 30 steps up and I’m not surprised John Arlott found it difficult. A friend said they were glad when he gave it up because they thought there might be a nasty accident due to his predilection for claret. After John Arlott died, CMJ was a second Arlott. He was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic and made the cricket so interesting, as indeed he did when he came to Lovat Fields.
I have been extremely lucky to rub shoulders with some of the great people of the game and I shall miss CMJ more than just as a friend. He was more like a brother to me, always accepting my disability, taking me as I am, not as he might have wanted me to be, and I shall always respect him for that over everything else.
I’m sure you realise that these are only a few of my memories of CMJ. There are many more but I think I should take my leave here.
Rest in Peace, CMJ, and thank you for your time and for sharing part of your life with me, and with so many others. You have enriched my life and made it more fascinating.
Bill Smith, January 2013