Death of CMJ Is a Reminder of Descriptive Powers of Radio ; Media Analysis

Article excerpt

THE wonderful tributes paid to Christopher Martin-Jenkins, the cricket commentator who died this week, remind us of the unique contribution of radio and TV sports broadcasters.

The great ones -- and CMJ, pictured, was certainly one of the very best -- add immeasurably to our enjoyment of the sport they talk about.

This is particularly true of sports, such as cricket and golf, which require commentators to talk for hours on end during periods when little or nothing of consequence is happening.

Undoubtedly, the skill required by radio commentators, in which they must create images for the unseeing listener, is the hardest of all to master. Yet the BBC has managed to find a succession of very special men behind the mike. From my youth, I have been an enthusiastic cricket fan (Essex, in case you're wondering), so down the years I have appreciated a roll call of terrific radio broadcasters -- men who have entranced listeners with their wit, wisdom and humour, such as EW Swanton, John Arlott and Brian Johnston.

CMJ was a worthy successor to that distinguished trio. Like them, he had a distinctive voice and a fluency as well as a wealth of knowledge. Like them, he exhibited a deep love for the sport. And like them, he was authoritative. These men were walking Wisdens. They held a wealth of history in their heads and listeners could be sure that they knew their facts.

Perversely, because they were so good at the job, we could accept that even when they made errors. …