Two Test batting spots are up for grabs in today’s fourth round of the Sheffield Shield with a huge group of batsmen in contention to play the first Test against India.
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Winding the clock back a few years today, I found myself once again marveling at clips of Damien Martyn and his sublime strokeplay.
Martyn is a very quiet, humble, unassuming man who was immensely talented. His exquisite timing of the cricket ball was stunning to see live at the SCG or on the TV at home.
The big personalities of the McGraths, Warnes and the Haydens in the side often left a shy Martyn to his own devices but when he picked up his Kookaburra he was a picture to watch.
Marto come into the Australian team in 1992 as a 21 year old young gun replacing Dean Jones. He had a slow start in the series against a star studded West Indies side with Ambrose, Walsh and Ian Bishop making up their pace attack.
He went on the Ashes tour as a reserve batter in ’93 but managed to get a look in for the South African series at home after Steve Waugh was injured.
A well compiled half century in the first innings of the final test in Sydney was followed by an ill-advised lofted cover drive in a small chase after Australia fell to 8 for 110 and requiring another 7 runs for victory. Martyn was held accountable for the loss and was dropped.
He never played another Test until the turn of the century. With the world at his feet and being touted as the Aussies’ next big thing, this unfortunate mistake he undoubtedly paid for.
Should a young player with enormous ability have been sent back to Shield cricket for one mistake in an innings where no other batsmen performed? I think not!
Damien Martyn would ensure when given another opportunity that he took full advantage. In 2000 he topped the averages in the New Zealand series but made way for Ponting to come back from injury.
An injury to Steve Waugh enabled Marto to return for a test at home against the West Indies where he was unbeaten in both innings.
Marto would then be selected for the first test in England and his chance to cement a permanent position was within his grasp. Two centuries and two half centuries in the Ashes series for Martyn would thrust him onto the international scene.
He was also named the Wisden cricketer of the year in 2001.
Martyn continued to be a consistent scorer for Australia and excelled in the number four spot vacated by Mark Waugh. In 2004/2005, he showed the public an absolute master class of batting in all conditions. He fell only three runs short of being the first Australian since Sir Donald Bradman to score three consecutive hundreds.
These were made on the sub-continent in very tough conditions against great spin bowling attacks and were masterful centuries. In this 12 month period Marto scored 1608 runs at 61.84. He was named Test Player of the year for 2005.
The Ashes in England followed this achievement. However, Martyn had a poor series when he was the key to the Aussies batting at that time. England had great plans to all the batsman and unfortunately Damien himself was not able to combat the attack.
Amazingly he was dropped by the selectors following the Ashes. Yes, Martyn had a dreadful series but the reigning test player of the year was dropped 5 tests after receiving the award. Daft decision in my books.
Marto played the ODI’s that summer and played some handy knocks, including falling just short of a hundred in the Twenty20 game against South Africa at the Gabba. I have that innings on tape and it was simply awesome.
The selectors decided to take Martyn to South Africa for his experience to replace Brad Hodge where he made a second innings century guiding Australia to victory.
Later in 2006 he played in the Champions trophy tournament where he won two man of the match awards. Marto was the leading run scorer and assisted in winning the ICC Champions trophy for the first time.
Martyn was retained for the 2006/07 Ashes series where he started the series in a disappointing fashion. It seemed to me that he had lost some passion for the game based on some of his shot selections and reactions to dismissals.
He is a cool and calm character but frustration seemed to show, followed by a sudden retirement after the second test. Selectors treatment of Martyn over the years would have tipped a lesser man over the edge but he battled on until enough was enough.
There has been speculation about dressing room dramas between Damien and Matthew Hayden after the second test. That wouldn’t surprise me given Hayden’s domineering personality and Martyn being a chilled out guy, but regardless of that Damien had played his last game.
I for one have missed the elegance and grace of Damien Martyn for the past few years. Seeing the rotating door approach by the selectors currently makes me appreciate the talent that I was privileged to see for those years of the dominant Aussies.
Damien Martyn’s statistics speak for themselves, averaging 46 in Test cricket and almost 41 in ODI’s. These averages are above Mark Waugh’s and in my opinion Marto was every bit as good a batsman as him. I feel the selectors robbed Martyn of many years in the team through the 90’s and should have appreciated his incredible talent and strokeplay.
I have been hoping for another strokeplayer like Damien Martyn for a few years now and watching his innings on the VCR’s might be as close as I get for a while yet.
Marto might not have been the superstar headline act in the Australian cricket team, but he was the guy I was waiting for to walk out of the gate each game.