Terry Jenner, 1944-2011 May 25, 2011

TJ's frankness and humour stood out

A friend and captain pays tribute to Terry Jenner

Terry Jenner has passed away and wristspinners the world over have lost a great ally.

There weren't many better qualified to speak on the subject of wrist-spin bowling than TJ and he was a fierce protector of the art. He understood the art and its practitioners and most importantly, was able to communicate his thoughts clearly and concisely, at times with a brutal frankness that typified the man.

As his captain for many years, first with South Australia and then at the international level, it was his honesty I appreciated almost as much as his wicket-taking ability. If Terry had a problem with my captaincy, and he often did, I quickly knew about it. There would be this thunk on the wooden table in the Adelaide Oval main dressing room and I'd say, "Do we have a problem Terrence?"

TJ would then sit down and pour two beers from his large bottle and we'd swap viewpoints. Whether we agreed or not that would be the end of the matter; the next day we'd start again from scratch. A captain appreciates it when his players don't hold any grudges from past dealings.

It was also hard to get cranky with TJ. He was usually complaining because either I didn't bowl him enough or he'd been operating down wind. It's difficult for a captain to fault a bowler who wants more work.

TJ also had a sense of humour; he often needed it as he battled life's ups and downs. His humour came to the fore when he was in jail for embezzlement in the late 1980s and the early 90s. He was made coach of the jail's cricket team. On one occasion they travelled to play a "clean team" as he called them, in other words a non-jail side. That day they were short a scorer, so TJ kept tally and played his role as coach. At the end of a very tight game, TJ had his jail team winning by a couple of runs. The opposition coach complained bitterly and things looked like getting out of hand when TJ lightened the mood; "Mate," he said, "I could count the money, I just didn't bank it."

Terry got a raw deal with his extremely severe jail term. He'd done wrong and he admitted it but as I wrote back in 1988; "I don't consider TJ to be a criminal. Never have, never will." He received six-and-a-half years with a non-parole period of three years. As a QC told me, that is a ridiculous penalty for a comparatively small amount of money.

It was also hard to get cranky with TJ. He was usually complaining because either I didn't bowl him enough or he'd been operating down wind. It's difficult for a captain to fault a bowler who wants more work.

Nevertheless, Terry did his time and as he often said afterwards, "I've come out a better man." Never was a truer word spoken. He became a mentor for Shane Warne and hundreds of other spinners around the world. In November last year a group of cricket lovers in the UK walked from The Oval to Lord's to raise money for the charity that supported TJ's development of spinners in England. People who met TJ didn't forget him. They may not have always agreed with him but they remembered him; he was a character who spoke about life with commonsense.

He was also an extremely capable broadcaster for a number of years on ABC radio. And he was an excellent and entertaining speaker whether it be as MC of one of his fabulous Test Brekkies in Adelaide or at an after dinner gig.

And TJ never forgot those who helped him. Roger Bryson from the Adelaide Mission was a great supporter of his while he was in jail. After he was released, TJ organised some of the best fund-raising functions in Adelaide to repay what he felt was his debt. I've no doubt Roger will tell you he got the better end of that deal.

TJ was also a doting father and an adoring grandfather. I wouldn't mind betting TJ felt he had an incentive to be a good father. When he was a young lad growing up in Corrigin in the wheat belt of Western Australia, TJ went against his father's wishes. He continued to pursue a cricket career when his dad wanted him to study accountancy. While TJ's judgement proved correct he never received acknowledgement from his father. TJ told me all he wanted when he was first selected for Australia in 1970-71 was a telegram from his dad saying, "Well done."

There'll be no shortage of people at TJ's funeral who will say "well done" for the contribution he's made to society. And there'll be plenty of his mates charging their glasses to TJ and drinking a toast. That's the way he'd want it; the only thing missing will be that thunk of the beer bottle on the wooden table.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist