Blimey Marto, we didn’t mean it!

From the Corridor last week:

Martyn (Retail Manager): The irritating but smooth bloke you’re always trying to get rid of but customers love him and he sells just enough to keep his place.

I think there’s a bit more to Damien Martyn‘s retirement then meets the eye. With Martyn, there always is. He is a sensitive and wary character that doesn’t care for the spotlight, and he’s had enough of the guff that comes with being a Test cricketer. That’s what I am guessing has happened here.

He wasn’t always so shy though.

Martyn was the brightest star in a ‘new wave’ of talented young Australian batsmen that emerged around 1990. He captained Australia’s under 19 side that toured England, leading the likes of Adam Gilchrist. There were plenty of other good players in that ‘new wave’ like Matthew Hayden, Darren Lehmann and Justin Langer. But there was no doubt that ‘Marto’ was the best.

He was ‘fast-tracked’ as they say, and along with Justin Langer, he was cast into the furnace of facing Ambrose and Walsh and co at their height in 1992-93. He proved he had the makings, scoring a vital half century in the same match that Warne first made his name.

But he couldn’t score that breakthrough century that would have sealed his place, and there were stories going ’round the traps’ about his attitude. He had replaced Dean Jones in the side and brought not only a Jones-like talent, but a Jones-like mouth. When he specacularly failed to bring Australia home in a Test match the next summer, he was made the scapegoat, and cast back into the grind of State cricket.

The demotion was hard for Martyn and he lost his way for several years. He was even dropped from the West Australian side for a while, and it seemed a great talent had been lost.

I do not know what it was that turned things around for him. However, he got back into the side when Ricky Ponting injured his knee prior to the New Zealand tour of 1999/2000, and made some valuable contributions. However he was a different sort of player- still as elegant and obviously talented as ever, but clearly not altogether anxious to attract attention.

He piled on the runs though, and had the support of his team-mates. 2004 was his golden year, as he scored centuries against India and Sri Lanka that were crucial to series victories. In 2003 he had played in the World Cup Final with a broken finger and still scored a masterful innings, albiet completely over-shadowed by Ricky Ponting. And this year in the ICC Champion’s Trophy, he was playing as well as ever.

Well, whatever is behind this, good luck to ‘Marto’ in whatever he decides to do. He got married in the off-season, and maybe he just wants to settle down and enjoy life. He left plenty of fond memories in the minds of cricket lovers not just in Australia but around the world.

Now that’s Test cricket!

Right then, that’s the sort of cricket I want to see.

Tough, hard as nails, no mucking about, just getting in down and dirty.

Before we have any complaints that England ‘batted slow’, I just want to point out that it used to be always like this. Steve Waugh’s first day as captain was in the West Indies and Australia crawled to be 6 for 174 at stumps on Day 1. Off the full 90 overs. Of course, you don’t want to rush when you are facing Walsh and Ambrose.

And Australia went on to win that game by a mile.

No, today’s play was classic cricket, at its best. The Adelaide Oval was packed, the pitch was perfect, so it was just head to head between batsmen and bowlers. And a lot of what we saw in Brisbane flowed through to this game. England can bat well enough, but they just let themselves down with poor concentration. Strauss, Cook and Bell all gave their wickets away, after playing themselves in. These guys just have to kick themselves, because they’ll never get a better place to bat.

Not that it was that easy out there, because Australia did bowl well. Clark was the pick of the bowlers, even though he was confused as to why he didn’t bowl more. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely surprised myself- Clark was bowling beautiful lines and all, but you want to be bowling Lee in conditions like this. Lee bowled plenty of rubbish between his best bowling, and that is actually more likely to get you a wicket

That’s how Bell got himself out.

Even though England have had a strong day, as an Australian I’m not too worried yet. Once both sides have had a bat, it will be easier to tell who is placed the best. Australia’s batsmen are good at concentrating as well, and if England back themselves to score 450, Australia’s game-plan will be to first get something like that themselves, then, if possible, to build a first innings lead and try to erase the worry of a fourth innings chase.

But having said that, it has been a very good day for England and they will sleep well tonight.

Scorecard 

Video: West Indies v Australia, Third Test, 1999

I watched this video (14 mins) the other day of the West Indies against Australia, in the third Test at Bridgetown in 1999. For various reasons, that particular year was a total bloody washout for me, and I missed a lot of the cricket that went on. So it’s great to see a video of such a tense Test, and doubly great to see messyrs Ambrose and Walsh. However, what struck me most was…

  • How roly-poly Shane Warne was back then
  • How superb Austalia were under Steve Waugh
  • Jason Gillespie used to bowl quickly
  • Jason Gillespie swung it and moved it off the seam at will
  • Glenn McGrath used to bowl quickly
  • Glenn McGrath swung it and moved it off the seam at will
  • Glenn McGrath was an angry, bitter, and quite remarkably aggressive competitor
  • Australia must miss having Mark Waugh in the slips

Rightly or wrongly, Australia of 2005 are nothing compared to the 1999 model. The old model had bite, power and uncompromising aggression. The new model seems a bit lost; their warhorses and spearheads are, to be blunt, blunter than they once were. Watch the video and see if you’re as surprised as I am at their slick, machine-like qualities.

As a sidenote, what a knock by Lara!

1000 Murali wickets

I think it was Courtney Walsh who first broke through the 500-Test barrier and, at the time, I remember feeling utterly amazed that anyone could have got so far. I was equally doubtful that anyone would ever better it. Since then, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muraliatharan have waltzed past it as though it were nothing; Warne broke past 600 at Old Trafford in the summer. Today, though, Murali has gone past 1000 international wickets! It makes Walsh’s effort look pitiful and feeble*

Rather appropriately, his 100th wicket was controversial: “Khaled Mashud was given out caught when the ball only hit his pad” (S.Rajesh / Cricinfo)

* I am, of course, joking. It’s all very well for these glitzy spinners to take hundreds of wickets, but it’s all the more incredible for a fast bowler to manage it.

Gimme a tailender

It’s perhaps a bit disconcerting that I should admit this, but what the heck. I find the current India / Pakistan series completely dull and utterly arduous. I’m not actually watching it – more’s the pity – but, by all accounts, it sounds like a dreadfully painful match. I want Ashes cricket and I want it now. I want Steve Waugh to be grinding a hundred; Mike Atherton to scratch out one of his even uglier innings; I want Merv Hughes to spit at Peter Such, and laugh at his pathetic attempts to get bat on ball; in fact, I want a return to genuine tailend batsmen.

The loss of tailenders has been a disaster to cricket. They are now a rare beast, lurking among the local leagues around the world. For the lower-order batsman playing for their countries, they can now either hold up and end or score relatively freely. WHAT? I didn’t sign up to that, thanks very much. What about our tailend heroes? Tufnell, Such, Fraser; Hughes, May, McGrath; Walsh, Ambrose, Benjamin. And, of course, Danny Morrison, although his record-efforts of saving a Test (correct me if I’m wrong, which I usually am about anything historical) do edge him out of the class of a genuine muppet.

I want these back. I don’t want super-slick, multi-dimensional, do-it-all (and B&Q) players. I want batsmen that can bat brilliantly. When the batsmen roll their arms over, I want them to do a Bob Willis impression (his bowling action, not his suicidally-dull voice) and make a fool of themselves. Nevermind if they concede 12 or 30 from the over – give us some chuffing entertainment and stop taking it all so seriously. And I want brilliant bowlers; bowlers who couldn’t bat even if they had weekly training sessions with Boycott and Bradman. I want them to fall over, ideally on their stumps, or on their arse, with predictable regularity. Make them look foolish, and give the fans what they want!

Not a clue what I’m on about, but perhaps it explains my dislike of cricket’s new found “slick” and shiny and business-oriented nature. Graham Gooch, when he did his Bob Willis impression, had me in fits. It wasn’t that funny, in actual fact – it just demonstrated cricket’s ability to be bigger than just a game; for there to be interesting and funny parts to the days play. Tailenders were apart of that (“Way hay, it’s Such and Tufnell! Here. We. Go!”). Nowadays, the emphasis is on etching out as many runs as possible, an admirable statement of intent – and one I admire especially when England play – but let’s not forget cricket is a game, and everyone involved should treat it as such.

Steve Waugh warns West Indies

But if the Windies waltz around imagining they are all Viv Richards then they may as well not turn up.

So concludes Steve Waugh in his recent column, where he warns West Indies against complacency. And, as ever, it appears Brian Lara has the world and his aunty on his shoulders. If he rises, his team might too. If he doesn’t, will the rest of his side bother to rise to the occasion? Ryan posted a link on similar lines earlier.

While we know all to well the crisis West Indian cricket finds itself in, Waugh’s handbrake analogy is very good and very true:

West Indies has undoubted talent with a dangerous batting line-up that can tear attacks apart. It is one that has enough strike power with the ball to cause problems, but it all hinges on their attitude which has acted like a handbrake since they lost Ambrose and Walsh.

Those halcian days of Walsh and Ambrose seem so long ago. And someone else (maybe it was Waugh himself?) recently said that the last time the West Indies toured Australia, they did so with Courtney Walsh. He of 500 bloody Test wickets – and they still weren’t a force. “What hope have they now?” was the argument. Come on, Windies – show some guts and fight the good fight.

Australia v West Indies – the battle resumes

So, just a few hours to go until Australia play the West Indies and the latter unleash their “battery” of fast bowlers. It remains to be seen whether the battery is fully charged (geddit?) or a cheap, supermarket-branded throwaway which only lasts a day, at best. But, as Peter English says in his excellent preview, an Australia-West Indies encounter is always exciting and does, indeed, raise expectations. This is the start of the Aussie summer, after all, and is their first challenge since being humbled by the English.

For Australia, tonight’s game sees a debut for Mike Hussey who so impressed in England during the one-dayers in the summer. He looks a very fine prospect, and will add a much-needed spark to the fielding of Australia, quite aside from his obvious talent as a batsman. These are interesting times for Australia. I wouldn’t say desperate, or subscribe to some of the media’s feeling that this inexperienced side could slip up easily against the Windies – it’s just interesting. Hussey in; Kasper out; Gillespie out; Langer injured (“it hurts,” he said today).

And for the West Indies, Mr Walsh is quietly confident that the young battery of fast bowlers can trouble Australia’s run machines. Fidel “Castro” Edwards told Peter English: ‘I don’t bowl to hit people, I bowl to get wickets,’ which is surely comfort for all West Indians, not to mention the Australian batsmen.

Ryan will no doubt be posting his thoughts, so keep an eye on his blog. And if you have any comments about the game, you can leave them in a post which will “appear” magically at about 23.00 GMT/UTC. Perhaps someone can explain to me, again, why Stu MacGill has been excluded. Yes, I know Nathan Bracken’s a good bowler and yes I know the pitch is likely to assist seamers. But MacGill + Warne v West Indies would surely equal carnage?

Darryl Harper on David Shepherd

Fellow umpire Daryl Harper has posted his thoughts on the recently-retired David Shepherd, including this gem:

In August 2000 at The Oval, Courtney Walsh walked out to bat for the final time in a Test match on English soil. He was greeted with a guard of honour from his opponents as he entered the ground in his customary batting position at number eleven. As I stood with Shep and applauded the champion, David recalled that Don Bradman had been given a similar send-off on the same ground, 52 years earlier in his final Test match. As I returned to my position at the bowler’s end, I passed the big West Indian whose eyes were flowing with tears of emotion. I quickly mentioned the Bradman link as Shep had recalled, adding that the Don had made a second ball duck! Courtney threw his head back and vowed to do better than that. The first ball from Domenic Cork passed outside off stump and Walsh flashed at it without getting close. The second delivery was pitched on off stump and Walsh pushed forward with his bat. The ball eluded the wood and cannoned into the front pad, somewhere near the knee roll. It wasn’t a tough decision for me…..Courtney Walsh had emulated Bradman in his final Test innings in England.