The manner in which Damien Martyn exited international cricket may well prove something of a model for the future – and perhaps the relatively near future – given the number of Australian Test players now well into their 30s.
Anyone who watched Martyn closely in the Brisbane and Adelaide Tests might have sensed he was not a happy soul, and perhaps a troubled one. His final innings was a disappointment, with his final shot in international cricket best described as “inappropriate in the circumstances”. As he walked off the Adelaide Oval at a very tense stage in the match, he alone almost certainly knew it would be for the last time.
High profile sportspeople under pressure constantly deny reading what the media says about them. But even if they studiously avoid reading newspapers and watching television, they know what is being written and said about their form and future.
Martyn was the least media friendly of the Australian team. He guarded his privacy and gave relatively few interviews. But a short quote in the ABC publication Cricket produced prior to the Ashes series starting, gives an inkling of his doubts about the future.
“I knew I was in a vulnerable position once we lost the Ashes, because my numbers didn’t add up and I was put out to pasture … I was disappointed, and definitely thought it was the end of my career.”
As it turned out it wasn’t, and he was recalled for the series against South Africa, but you can tell from that quote he himself was very much aware his position in the team depended on results, not on history or mateship.
His current Ashes series scores were 29, 11 and 5. For a player obviously aware of the pressure he was under, those scores would have told Martyn he may have had only one more chance. And the inclusion of all-rounder Andrew Symonds in the squad for Perth would have only confirmed that.
But the manner of his retirement – his own timing, and without any fanfare, regrets or recriminations – might become the benchmark for an Australian team likely to undergo radical change after next year’s World Cup. Most of Martyn’s former teammates are around his age – 35.
Damien Martyn was a gifted stroke player if something of an enigma as a sporting personality. But the manner of his departure – a text followed by an email to Cricket Australia – might be more often than not the way it happens in the future.