The reaction to Damien Martyn’s shock retirement would appear to have entered Phase Two, where the concept of “team” has reasserted itself over the rights of the individual.

The weekend’s initial reports of the Test batsman’s rushed goodbye (via email to Cricket Australia’s boss!) and subsequent flight from Australia, were full of lines about how Martyn was his own man, or kept his own counsel, or was popular with teammates but always slightly removed. I assumed this was some sort of cricket writer code for “prick of a bloke”.

Much was made of the incident after the Champion’s Trophy win, where Martyn used a gentle hand to guide an Indian cricket heavy out of the way of the team photo. By the time this was revived over the weekend, you would have sworn he’d punched out the official.

Now the backlash has started in earnest. The weekend’s reports that Cricket Australia would almost certainly honour the financial commitments to Martyn have given way to today’s story that say “No, Cricket Australia might choose to hang on to the remaining $280,000 of his retainer if he’s not going to earn it.” The same report suggested Martyn had given up another potential $300,000 by walking away. Geez, you can earn good money for going out with a rash shot, fourth ball, during a vital run chase.

It’s interesting that a former cricketer, Brendan McArdle, has come out most strongly against Martyn. While Marto’s Test band-of-brothers have all paraded the line about “good on him for having the guts to walk”, McArdle has remained true to cricket’s sense of team, pointing out that Martyn has embarrassed Ricky Ponting, who championed his cause, and left the Australian team in an unexpected hole going into the Third Test. It’s a fair spray that points the finger at the vanished batsman for yet again putting his own interests ahead of the team – any team sport’s greatest sin.

It does raise the question of why Martyn couldn’t have announced he had lost the heart for the battle and would be retiring after the Perth Test, giving Shane Watson the extra time to step smoothly into his spot. At 35 years old and after That Shot in Adelaide, Martyn hardly had to worry about selectors and teammates pleading with him to stay.

Peter Fray

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