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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 September, 2003, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Life in the box

Christopher Martin-Jenkins reflects on his time as a commentator with Test Match Special.

They say that batsman should visualise themselves in the middle facing fast bowling, and to some extent that was the same with me and TMS.

I had always fooled around in the garden as a child commentating on matches so it just seemed as if I was joining friends in 1972 when I started on TMS.

I didn't find it at all daunting and the likes of Brian Johnston and John Arlott created an extremely welcoming atmosphere.

I would rather have captained England and made a century at Lord's, but up to a point I'm living my childhood dream.

TMS works so well because the welcome I got stretches to that the listener receives.

Things haven't changed all that much in the basics of commentary but Brian Johnston gave us our spirit
The camaraderie between those involved, and the broadcaster and listener, are what make TMS so special.

As does the cricket and the nature of the game which gives time for reflection, humour, observation and insight.

Brian Johnston was the key in shaping the programme and to this day one can still hear the voice and his genial prescence looking down.

Although he obviously had a serious side, he basically couldn't really take much seriously and that was what was so joyous about his broadcasting. There was always a pun forming and he loved life.

I was involved with Brian in something similar to the legover incident with Aggers, although unlike that occasion, I don't think anybody was listening.

It was the 1979 World Cup match between England and Canada at Trent Bridge, when the visitors had a substitue fielder come on.

John Emburey and Mike Gatting celebrate winning the Ashes
Any Ashes win is special, although 1986 seems a long time ago
Brian had very little idea of who was and wasn't on the field for such an obscure side and I was little better, but I had seen them once before so when the substitue came on I pointed to Shokat Bash on the list of players.

He couldn't believe anyone could have such a name and fell into uncontrollable giggles which I then caught.

The result was total silence, which for any length of time feels a hell of a long time in broadcasting.

Over the years there have been any number of exciting moments, and my favourites tend to involve the old enemy, Australia.

In 1981 I was doing television when England won the Ashes, but I was lucky enough to be in the box when Derek Randall took the winning catch in 1977 and did a cartwheel.

And almost a decade later I was there when Mike Gatting's team won them in Australia, an even more unusual feat.

Links to more Test Match Special stories


The TMS team reveal all

Christopher Martin-Jenkins
03 May 03  |  Presenter profiles

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