"God answers my prayers everywhere except on the golf-course."
CMJ TributeThe death this week of the cricket writer and broadcaster, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, caused great sadness to many. I could not claim to have known Christopher but he was kind enough to assist me with projects on a number of occasions. Despite legendary busyness he willingly agreed to every request I made of him – never asking for payment.
While many people would use their busyness to decline such requests, Christopher always apologetically said that he was really busy and therefore could only fulfil my request in a particular way: “I haven’t time to write the article for you but would it work if we spoke on the phone and you wrote it for me?” Even then, he would find the time to read, check and edit what I had written.
He agreed to do a piece on World Cup memories for a booklet I was editing for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. We had arranged that I would ring him at a time when he was in the car. Everything went splendidly. I thanked him and rang off. Two minutes later he rang me back, “My wife, who is in the car with me, just pointed out that I said ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ when I meant ‘Sunil Gavaskar’”. A lovely memory.
On another occasion he agreed to do a voice-over for a Christian video project. We recorded it at Lords. After he had done it – personalizing my script and delivering it brilliantly – he turned to Andrew Wingfield Digby and myself, “Was I OK?” Is the pope a Catholic?
The last piece I worked with him was an interview for Sorted magazine. He did not pull his punches, admitting to his unease at the number of South African born cricketers in the England team, his concern that about “the negative impact [of the IPL] on Test Cricket which has always been the pinnacle of the game”.
I asked him about referrals, again he was forthright: “To be honest I would be happier not to have them. I feel that we have lost a fundamental principle of cricket, which every schoolboy has always been taught – not to question the umpire’s decision. Now professional players are expected to question the umpire”. Read the full interview.
Ironically the last piece he wrote for The Times – a tribute to Tony Greig, published on 31 December, started with the words: “Tony Greig died of a heart attack on Saturday. It was probably a merciful relief because the late stage of cancer is often hell on earth”.
One tribute writer in The Times referred to his death as “an innings cut short by a brutally unlucky umpiring decision”. Of course, one knows what the writer means and cannot begin to understand the loss Christopher’s wife and family must be feeling now. Yet this also misses one eternity-changing fact, Christopher knew the umpire. In the interview with me, he said “My Christian faith is something that I think about daily and sustain by reading the Bible”. He added the importance of attending church wherever he was in world.
In his autobiography* he refers to his journey to faith at Cambridge. In another place he refers to an example of answered prayer adding “The Lord obliged, as he generally does when you need a boost”.
As we rightly mourn the loss of Christopher Martin-Jenkins, let us also give thanks for his life and inspiration and especially for the certainty that he has gone to be with his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, forever.
*CMJ,Christopher Martin-Jenkins, London, Simon and Schuster, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-85720-082-2