The storytellers of sport
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Tony Greig and CMJ were among the last of the great cricket broadcasters
Christopher Martin Jenkins and Tony Greig took different routes to becoming broadcasting icons. Yet, in a way, both found solace and an identity in cricket.
CMJ was quintessentially English, loved the village green as much as Lords, was educated and erudite and had the most wonderfully mellifluous voice. He was always your friend, speaking in smooth tones, and in my association with him, never deviated from the courteous. He played just enough cricket to understand the feelings associated with it, something he was able to transmit to eager listeners, hardly any of whom had played international cricket.
Tony Greig was a traveller; he was at various times South African, English and Australian, although his definition of his nationality didn't always find widespread acceptance. That was sad, because he was actually all three and that is not easy to be. He played cricket hard, and to the gallery, was not afraid of being abrasive and quite revelled in the role of showman, although those who knew him better than I did say that this was a facade. He was always energetic, always searching for excitement, and some might say he had the right voice for that style.
They were as different as maple syrup and vinegar but they had one thing in common. They understood their medium and their craft very well, and were willing to work at it. In Greig's case, his popularity as a broadcaster even overwhelmed his substantial persona as a cricketer of some distinction. To neither of them was broadcasting a lazy second option.
The broadcasting world is significantly poorer for their absence. And as we mourn them, we must also look at the changing contours of our profession, as the beauty of the spoken word and the elegance of description is increasingly rendered irrelevant in a chase for the box-office name. A younger version of Tony Greig can still hope to have a commentary career if he is willing to learn the skills that the great Channel Nine quartet of Benaud, Chappell, Lawry and Greig had, but another talented CMJ cannot even dream of it.
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