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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 14:47 GMT
Martyn's summer of discontent
By Scott Heinrich

THIRSTY FOR RUNS
Damien Martyn
Tests: 39
Runs: 2,339; 100s: 5; 50s: 15
Average: 45
Average since Feb 2002: 33

Australia may have trounced India in the VB Series, but for Damien Martyn it was a tournament spiked with surprising failure.

All is not well in the world of Martyn, Australia's gifted but brittle middle-order enigma.

Although he struck a much-needed 67 in the second final, the right-hander went into the tournament deciders with just 122 runs from eight innings.

A brace of 40-plus scores against lowly Zimbabwe papered over the cracks, but against India Martyn had scored three runs in four round-robin knocks.

Lapses in form are commonplace for batsmen, but for Martyn the burden is showing.

It is the Australian way to keep your head down and put on a poker face when things are not going well.

Not for Martyn, who in reaction to growing media criticism offered a middle finger two weeks ago to a cameraman whose camera was turned on.

Images of the juvenile gesture were beamed nationwide, generating the kind of publicity Cricket Australia could do without.

Perhaps Martyn wanted to let the public know he had just one thing on his mind, but he should let his bat, not his finger, do the talking if he wants to get back to his best.

It was a victimless crime that served only to show up the 32-year-old, and fairly enough the Aussie authorities decided to take no action.

Damien Martyn
The VB Series has not been a happy tournament for Martyn

It was left to Ricky Ponting, the captain, to slap Martyn gently on the wrist, while other team-mates have queued up to lend support in his time of need.

"There is no doubt that he has had a lot of focus on him and nobody likes that intense scrutiny," vice-captain Adam Gilchrist said before Australia met India in Perth on 1 February.

It was the kind of backing designed to settle Martyn, and he had everything in his favour on a home ground where he had previously averaged 62 in one-day cricket.

Sadly for him, it was not to be and he fell meekly for two. Before his welcome fifty in Sydney on Sunday, Martyn had seemed very distracted and not far from the crossroads of his career.

But turmoil begets turmoil and Martyn has been here before.

Captain of Australia's under-19 side, he was thrust into the Test team at the tender age of 21, but lasted only 13 months before being banished to the wilderness for four years.

Damien Martyn
At his best, Martyn is a dashing, elegant batsman

His indiscretion was a rash shot that led to defeat against South Africa in 1994, and while the penalty did not fit the crime it gave Martyn an unwanted reputation as soft.

The ensuing couple of years saw him rather languish in the Western Australian side, where he was reported to have lost his way.

Said to have taken to partying, Martyn was given a simple ultimatum by the state side's coach: shape up or ship out.

He chose to get back on track, and wisely allied a sharper mental approach with his boundless ability to re-launch his career.

Record scoring feats for WA in 1998 yielded a return to the one-day team, and for the last three years Martyn has been a dependable fixture in the Test side as well.

But it could be said his current predicament has been coming for some time; he did not have a great summer against India and it is now 26 innings and two years since his last Test century.

With Steve Waugh now retired, Martyn should be considered a senior member of the team and a middle-order banker for this year's crucial tours of Sri Lanka and India.

As it is, it is arguable he has not lost ground in a pecking order that includes Darren Lehmann, Simon Katich and Michael Clarke.

Martyn has got out of tight spots before, and it seems he will need all of his guile and diligence to get out of this one.




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