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Sad passing

Two high profile deaths in the cricket world so close together is tough going . Both Tony Greig and Christopher Martin-Jenkins were an integral part of the game: both giants in their own spheres, they are sorely missed.
The young Tony appeared on the Sussex scene just as I was about to call it a day and I barely had time to form an opinion of his ability at the time. Fast forward three years when I was called back to play under his captaincy at Hove and it was a different story. “Come on Ted, I’ll bowl you a few in the nets”.
The next thing I knew, I was at full stretch defending my self as much as my stumps against a hail of quick, bouncy missiles. I might have known he had more in mind than a gentle practice session – more an opportunity to display a new found power and confidence in his skills. The only other time I remember being such an Aunt Sally was when Les Jackson was out to impress his Captain enough to be selected the next day against Australia at Headingley. Putting the two in the same bracket is meant as a credit to both of them.
I seldom get to attend the annual Cowdrey “Spirit of Cricket” lecture at Lord's but when I heard that Tony Greig was the speaker last summer, I made a point of being there. His brilliantly conceived theme was to demand that cricket administrators should act with equal integrity and respect for each other, as that expected of the players. That he ruffled a few feathers, notably in India, was to be expected but, though he was a mite surprised at the level of reaction, there was no hint of retraction when we met again some days later.
It was a shock to hear of his lung cancer diagnosis before the year was out and a greater jolt to hear that a heart attack had brought about his death. He was a large strong man who drove himself hard but always managed many smiles along the way.
I had less close personal involvement with CMJ, the most influential cricket journalist, author, commentator and editor of his lifetime. Yes, we inevitably attended the same dinners where I tried to make sure that I was not on the list of speakers. He tended to eclipse the others whoever.
Mostly I count myself among the millions of listeners to Test Match Special where he played many a masterly innings on the air. Never was his inimitable style and voice more welcome than in recent years returning by car from France in French cars which all have long wave bands on the radio (German cars do not). You tend to be able to tune in about 150 kilometers from Calais when all is suddenly homely and familiar – a marvelous feeling.
I was always an admirer of his son Robin's cricketing talent. CMJ once asked me to watch the teenage all-rounder bat on the basis that he might be susceptible to the short stuff. Happily I was able to give his anxious father a positive report.
Perhaps it was this early involvement which made me follow his subsequent professional career with more than a casual interest. He always seemed to deliver when most needed with both bat and ball and as a key player in a team which won three County Championships in five years, it is a palpable shame, and very possibly England's loss that he received little or no International recognition.
So the cricket circus will whirl away regardless with new critics and new players coming and going as ever before. But in both professions they will need to look to their laurels if they are to reach the standards of these two highly skilful and committed individuals.


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