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Thoughtful and enjoyable,
This review is from: CMJ: A Cricketing Life (Kindle Edition)
CMJ was for so many years one of the BBC's voices of cricket; his authoritative yet genial commentary on TMS along with his accomplished writing in The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Cricketer made him one of cricket's most respected commentators. As anyone familiar with his work would expect, this book reflects his unashamedly traditionalist stance on the game, and, to some extent, life in general, with sharp but well-reasoned criticisms levelled at T20, some of the actions and attitudes of modern players, the way in which sports coverage is saturated by football, and falling standards in the use of the English language in broadcasting and print journalism.
It's a slightly curiously structured book; it begins with a fairly standard chronological autobiography, before broadening out into a series of broader reflections and reminiscences on cricket, sport and life, before closing with a few very personal chapters. CMJ writes with a commanding knowledge of the history of the game, and reveals a background steeped in it from his school days. His upbringing and career path undoubtedly influenced his traditionalist views; for me, and I'm sure many other readers, the frequent references to public schools, gentlemen's clubs and so on feel as though he inhabited another world, yet the way he writes about them is so natural and unassuming that it's impossible to feel that he's being arrogant or superior. Indeed, stories about happenings in India that begin by explaining that one of CMJ's travelling companions had been at school with the Maharajah only made me smile. The chapters on his travels around the world reporting on cricket are among the best; the stories of life on tour are fascinating and often rather funny.
The final chapters include a discussion of CMJ's Christian faith; he is open about his doubts and his perseverance in a very engaging and humbling way. He also devotes a chapter to RMJ, his son Robin, who enjoyed a successful career as a first class cricketer with Sussex. Throughout the book, though, CMJ's devotion to his family shines through. The final brief chapter is ultimately very sad; writing about his decision to slow down and take things a little easier, he concludes with the hope that he'll have sufficient years of good health ahead of him to enjoy this new pattern of life. These words, of course, were published in 2011, less than 2 years before his death from cancer on New Year's Day 2013; the game of cricket and the profession of sports journalism are both undoubtedly poorer without him.