The world of cricket has been saddened by the death of Christopher Martin-Jenkins, the revered journalist and BBC radio commentator from Rudgwick.
Affectionately known to many as CMJ, Mr Martin-Jenkins died from cancer three weeks short of his 68th birthday. His passing has been felt particularly deeply at Horsham Cricket Club, where he was a long-term vice-president.
Club president Hugh Thomas told The District Post: “Although Christopher was always busy with BBC and newspaper commitments, he played for the club whenever he could. He was a useful all-rounder, good enough to score 99 as captain of Marlborough School at Lord’s. He played for Horsham, mainly on Thursdays, well into the 1990s.
“His contributions to our dinners were also always greatly enjoyed because he was such an outstanding speaker and a good mimic.
“His sons Robin and James progressed through the colts coaching programme at the club, started by my predecessor, Dr John Dew.
“Christopher delivered John’s eulogy at his memorial service in St Mary’s Church next to the ground, where he also read the lessons at Cricket Society services. He was thrilled when Robin became a regular for Sussex.”
Horsham CC committee man Barry Peay, who frequently played alongside CMJ at Cricketfield Road, described him as “an elegant bat” and “more-than-useful off-break bowler”.
Mr Peay said: “CMJ was also president of the West Sussex Association of Cricket Officials and, being a great advocate and admirer of county cricket, he attended Sussex matches at Horsham whenever he was not on Test match duty.”
CMJ loved cricket at every level. Despite being in great demand during his year as MCC president, he made time to open the extensive practice area at Horsham, an event also attended by England internationals Caroline Atkins, Holly Colvin and Sarah Taylor.
Cutting the tape at the opening ceremony, CMJ said: “Of all the many duties I will perform in that role (MCC president), nothing will surpass the pleasure of returning to the lovely setting of Horsham Cricket Club to see the marvellous new facilities.”
CMJ went on to praise the hard work of club stalwarts such as Mr Peay, Polly Clark, Jim Birch and the ladies who sold tea and cakes to raise money for the project.
He also cited examples of Horsham colts progressing to professional cricket, including current Sussex players Chris Nash and Will Beer, both former Horsham captains.
And at the subsequent buffet reception, he enthusiastically discussed cricket with members until well into the evening.
In addition to being editor of The Cricketer magazine and a respected writer for The Times and The Daily Telegraph at various stages of his career, CMJ was a prolific author of books about the sport.
But he was best known for his distinctive radio commentaries on the BBC’s Test Match Special for 40 years.
It was a rare honour for a journalist to become president of the MCC and his services to cricket were recognised with an MBE in 2009.
His battles with technology, such as trying to phone his paper from the golf course using a TV remote control, further endeared him to colleagues. But there was no doubting his supreme professionalism at the microphone or the exceptional quality of his written work.
His final piece of journalism, about the sad demise of former Sussex and England captain Tony Greig, appeared in The Times shortly before CMJ’s death.
Poignantly, he wrote: “Tony Greig died of a heart attack on Saturday. It was probably for him a merciful release because the latter stage of any cancer is often hell on Earth.
“So, for most, is the toxic treatment given to cure the disease, administered by wonderful health workers.”
On Monday, Sussex County Cricket Club will open books of condolence for both men at the PROBIZ County Ground in Hove.
Tributes can be paid there any time between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, until the end of the month.
Sussex CCC chairman Jim May said: “Everyone connected with Sussex cricket is deeply saddened by the untimely loss of these two cricketing giants.
“We are opening two books of condolence at the County Ground to enable our members and supporters to pay tribute to these two great men of Sussex cricket.”