Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket awards launched

Christopher Martin-Jenkins

It's the start of what we all hope will be a really exciting international cricketing summer on Test Match Special with the New Zealand tour, the ICC Champions Trophy and of course the Ashes.

Four years ago, England had to beat Australia in the last Test of the summer to wrestle back the urn.

At the microphone as Mike Hussey was dismissed by Graeme Swann that day was Christopher Martin-Jenkins. His words - "It's all over. England have regained the Ashes... on a golden evening at The Oval" - perfectly described the magic of that moment.

As Jonathan Agnew summed up during his eulogy for Christopher at St Paul's Cathedral last month, commentators live for moments like that "but without CMJ, they'll never sound quite the same again."

There is a rather bittersweet feeling in the TMS commentary box at Lord's this week. We are buoyed by what lies ahead this summer, but saddened that this is our first home series without our much-loved and much-missed colleague.

Christopher might have been a nightmare to produce at times with his eccentric timekeeping and technophobia, but I will miss hearing those rapid steps along the corridor and crash through the commentary box door as he realised he was late for yet another spell. His punctuality may have tested the patience, but his arrival at the microphone was always worth the wait.

It is a symbol of what CMJ meant to the game that tickets for his memorial service were massively oversubscribed, and St Paul's was jam-packed with former players, friends and many Test Match Special listeners.

The service was a perfect tribute to Christopher in every way - except perhaps that it began and ended on time.

The same sort of words and phrases kept coming out about CMJ during the memorial service and the gathering at Lord's afterwards. "A gentleman". "A decent man". "Cricket's greatest friend".

Christopher was someone who believed in doing the right thing.

He was a fierce supporter of the "Spirit of Cricket" - a concept described in the preamble to the laws of the game.

The opening sentence reads: "Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its laws, but also within the spirit of the game. Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself."

Sometimes the concept of "the Spirit of Cricket" can be difficult to fathom. But at the start of an Ashes summer it's probably most easily explained by one of the most enduring images of the epic 2005 series.

Brett Lee and Andrew Flintoff
Andrew Flintoff consoles Brett Lee after the dramatic finish to the second Test at Edgbaston in 2005

After England had pulled off a dramatic two-run victory at Edgbaston, the non-striker Brett Lee sank to his knees in disappointment. Most of the England fielders joined together in raucous celebration. Except one man, Andrew Flintoff. He reached down to console Lee and congratulate him on his heroic effort to try and get Australia over the line.

For many, that one moment personified "the Spirit of Cricket".

I know that CMJ felt greatly honoured to be the first - and so far only - journalist to be asked to give the prestigious MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture in 2007.

On the night during the round table discussion which followed the lecture, I remember Christopher debating the issue of whether a batsman should always walk with a young Alastair Cook.

The future England captain was arguing that it was not realistic for batsmen to do so in the modern game. They agreed to differ that evening!

It was CMJ's strong belief in playing the game the right way which has led Test Match Special and the Marylebone Cricket Club to join together in inaugurating two new awards in his memory.

After the death of another broadcasting great, Brian Johnston, the programme introduced the "Champagne Moment" to celebrate his contribution to cricket, and we hope the "Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Awards" will do something similar in his honour.

We know how proud CMJ was to be asked to be MCC president in 2010-11, so it is apt for the BBC to join with the guardians of the laws and spirit of the game to launch these prizes.

There will be both a professional award and a grassroots prize reflecting CMJ's love of cricket at all levels.

The Elite Award will be presented to a professional cricketer who has made the biggest contribution to the Spirit of Cricket in the 2013 English cricket season. The winner will be involved in choosing a cricket programme at a deserving primary or secondary school which will receive a cash donation.

The Youth Award will recognise an Under-16 junior cricketer or team who have best demonstrated the Spirit of Cricket in action. The winner, alongside their team or class, will be invited to attend the Yorkshire Bank 40 Final at Lord's by MCC, with the BBC TMS commentators interviewing the winners on the day.

All the terms and conditions, plus application forms, will be available later this summer on the Lord's and BBC websites.

We hope the "Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Awards" will be a fitting memorial to what the man believed was right in the game.

Test Match Special may never sound quite the same again, but hopefully this award will be a constant reminder of CMJ's great contribution and also the standards that we strive to preserve.

Test Match Special will have ball-by-ball commentary on all of England's matches this summer, starting with the first Test against New Zealand at Lord's from 16-20 May. Commentary can be heard on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 Long Wave, and worldwide via the BBC Sport website and the BBC iPlayer Radio app, with live text commentary on the BBC Sport website, mobiles and the BBC Sport app.

Read more about the Spirit of Cricket on the MCC website.

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