How TJ won back his self-respect

Terry Jenner demonstrates the variations the legspin Siddartha Vaidyanathan

Terry Jenner crammed many contrasting lives into his 66 years. Cricket, as a player and coach, gave him an identity and ultimately fame, a gambling addiction and a prison sentence earned him condemnation and notoriety. And charity fundraising, radio and television commentary, magazine writing and his considerable skills as a compere and after-dinner speaker with a razor-sharp, often self-deprecating, wit gained him respect and numerous friendships.

Riches eluded him, but TJ was at peace with himself when he died in bed at his Brighton (Adelaide) home at 12.15pm on May 25, knowing he had finally beaten the odds by living longer than doctors had forecast when he suffered a massive heart attack in London on April 7, 2010.

At the end, he was tired and frail, bordering on skeletal, and virtually unrecognisable from the sturdy, gregarious character he had been for most of his eventful life. He had developed diabetes a few years ago and, at 106 kilograms, he was uncomfortably overweight when, in London to start a brief coaching stint with young English spin bowlers, he suddenly lost all but 15 per cent of his heart's capacity.

Above all else, and much to his eternal pride, Jenner's name will forever be synonymous with that of Shane Warne, cricket's greatest leg-spinner and arguably the game's greatest bowler. Their close association and even closer friendship helped Warne polish his extraordinary skills, but, importantly for TJ, as he was the first to admit, Warne's phenomenal success gave his coach/mentor much more national and international credibility and respect than he had gained during his 13-year first-class playing career, which included nine Tests in five years. Jenner eventually was able to make a satisfying living out of coaching young spin bowlers around the world. In many cases, if he couldn't go to them, they came to him - for a week or two and sometimes even for six months.

Warne never forgot his old mate, or the subtle influences he had on his career, as a cricketer and a man, from their first meeting at the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide in the 1990-91 season. TJ was always an unpaid adviser, but Warne rewarded him generously by, among other things, signing memorabilia and, when available, attending charity functions run by Jenner and Ann Blair, his fiancée and partner of nearly 20 years. With Ann as a guiding light and pillar of strength, Jenner raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities around Australia, particularly in South Australia.

Warne, accompanied by his parents from Melbourne, was the star attraction at TJ's testimonial at the Adelaide Convention Centre last October. His emotional tribute enthralled the audience of more than 400 - as did other speakers, including Ian Chappell and Doug Walters - and his successful auction bids formed a significant portion of the six-figure sum raised on the night.

Terrence James Jenner was born in the Perth suburb of Mount Lawley on September 8, 1944, but spent most of his first 13 years at Corrigin, a small wheatbelt town 250 kilometres from Perth. His father, Arthur, ran the local store. As a leg-spin bowler, capable batsman and sound fieldsman, his cricketing talent blossomed at the Mount Lawley club and he had an on-and-off career with Western Australia from 1963-64 to 1966-67 before he and "spin twin" Ashley Mallett switched to SA, and promptly forced their way into the SA team for the 1967-68 season ... and then Australia's Test team.

Jenner played his nine Tests (plus eight as 12th man) from 1970-71 to 1975-76. He took 24 wickets (av. 31.20) and scored 208 runs (av. 23.11) in four Tests against England and five against the West Indies. He also played four matches for Australia against the Rest of the World - in 1971-72 - and went to New Zealand with an Australian second team led by Sam Trimble early in 1970.

His best Test bowling figures were 5 for 90 off 32.2 overs - in West Indies' first innings of 319 in the fifth Test at Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1973. His highest Test innings was a top-scoring 74 in Australia's first innings of 304 against England in Adelaide in the fifth Test of 1974-75.

But Jenner's Test career will be remembered most for his ducking into a short ball from England fast bowler John Snow during the seventh Test in Sydney in 1970-71 (Ian Chappell's first as Australian captain). Jenner, on 8, was struck in the head and fell back onto the pitch. He was helped from the field. Soon after, Snow, fielding alongside the fence at fine leg, was grabbed by a spectator. Cans and assorted rubbish were thrown onto the ground and, accompanied by booing from sections of the crowd, England captain Ray Illingworth led his players back to the dressing room briefly before play resumed. Jenner batted again the next day and finished with 22. He and Snow later became good friends.

"TJ was always an unpaid adviser, but Warne rewarded him generously by, among other things, signing memorabilia and, when available, attending charity functions run by Jenner"

If Jenner's Test career was relatively modest, his first-class career statistics were imposing: 389 wickets (av. 32.18), 3580 runs (av. 22.23) and 87 catches in 131 matches from 1963-64 to 1976-77. These included 259 wickets (av. 29.85) and 2169 runs (av. 22.13) in 77 matches for SA from 1967-68 to 1976-77. Only four other players have completed the 200-wicket/2000-run double for SA - George Giffen, Clarrie Grimmett, Neil Hawke and Peter Sleep.

Jenner is also one of only four players to do the 10-wicket/100-run double in a first-class match for SA (4 for 43 and 7 for 127, and 59 and 47 against WA at Adelaide Oval in January, 1974). The others are George Giffen (nine times), Jack Crawford and Joe Scuderi.

Those close to him knew Jenner enjoyed gambling - on horses and at casinos. But nobody was aware of the full extent of his habit that led to his embezzling $10,000 during his days as a car salesman and then, inevitably, a prison sentence - six-and-a-half years with a minimum non-parole period of three years. With good behaviour, he was released after 18 months in March, 1990, and served another six months on home detention, and was on parole for the remaining four-and-a-half years of his original sentence.

He wrote revealing chapters about the torment and frustrations of prison life in his autobiography, TJ, Over The Top ... Cricket, Prison and Warnie, written with Ken Piesse and published in 1999.

In an introduction to the book, Warne described Jenner as "the best spin bowling coach around and daylight is probably second". "The reasons are simple," he wrote. "He is a great listener and more often than not, you might just want to get something off your chest, or just lean on those ample shoulders of his. Other times, though, he will say you're not quite doing this or that and then his ability to show you really does make a difference. His coaching philosophy is to keep it simple, which I find works very well."

Aside from his involvement with Warne, his many coaching assignments and his charity work, Jenner derived most pleasure from his masterly organising of private and public reunions - in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane - to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the "Invincibles", Don Bradman's legendary Australian team that was unbeaten on the 1948 tour of England.

Yes, it was a long way back from the shame of being imprisoned to regaining the respect of the greats again. But TJ did it, and, crucially, regained his self-respect. And, for a confident, aggressive man who could have written the definitive book on the dubious art of sledging opponents on and off the cricket field, he was a better, more humble and caring person the second time around, while retaining his wicked sense of humour.

Jenner's mother, Queenie, died in Perth, aged 92, late last year. His sister, Laraine, two years older than him, lives in Perth. He is also survived by his fiancée, Ann, daughter Trudianne, 24, by his first marriage to Jacky, and grand-daughter Ashlea, aged two. (Ann's son, Damian, married Trudianne).

His funeral service will be held at Adelaide Oval from 5pm on Tuesday, May 31. With the full co-operation and assistance of the South Australian Cricket Association, planning for it started when he was sent home from hospital eight weeks ago, having been told he had 48 hours to live. "I'm flattered about having my send-off at the oval ... it's a great honour ... I don't think I deserve it," he told me when I last saw him two weeks ago.