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June 14, 2011
Anthony Martin is an original. In what was undoubtedly the most delightful press conference of the tour, Martin presented his rainbow personality. Passionate. Sentimental. Humourous. Serious. Emotional. Slightly off his rocker. Naïve. Sincere. Fresh. Utter fun.
It started with the most rollicking understatement of the tour and it also had an over-the-top, theatrical, warning in the middle. "It [his four-wicket haul] feels good. I may not show it on the outside but I feel very good inside, you know," he said. Not show it outside? Seriously? Really? Martin was bouncing in joy. Happiness exploded from him. It was almost infectious.
You would think characters like Martin don't come any more in this day and age but here he was, parading his colourful character. It didn't feel like a performance; he was just being himself.
"No-one comes here and destroys me on my pitch," he said. "This is my pitch. I don't care who they are. I am here to destroy whoever I play against. I am so glad that I did it against India, the world champions."
There was no trace of arrogance. The way he said the words you couldn't even accuse him of being pompous. Neither were they meant to be humorous. It was light hearted sure but it appeared he meant every word of it. Yet, no one could take offence.
He is sentimental. A local journalist asked him about the impact of his mother. "Sometimes just to speak about my mom I want to shed tears. She has always looked out for me. She supports me all the time. She was in the crowd today with my daughter and girlfriend." Sentimentality gives way to humour without any warning. "I am not married," he says with a laugh. "I might not ever. I may also."
Now, he was on a roll and it appeared he couldn't have stopped himself, even if he tried. "I am sorry that Sachin and Sehwag weren't here," he continued. No-one had brought up those two names. "I have played against Sehwag one time before. I took a catch off him and he didn't want to move. He stood on the pitch, leaning on his bat and I was celebrating. I went all around the park." Laughter.
That game was back in 2006. It was where Martin's confidence grew and a cricketing career took the next step. "I took the wicket of Rahul Dravid, caught at slip. I took another left-hander , don't remember his name. I took two wickets for not much. After getting those wickets I told myself I can play international cricket. I have seen Dravid on TV destroying attacks all over the world and he came here and I destroyed him. He hit a four first ball and then gone! So I tell myself I can play."
He might come across a fun eccentric character but he is a severely passionate and hard-working man. He used to be a fast bowler in his under-15 days but an accident injured his back and he couldn't bowl fast anymore. So he tried off spin but the under-19 coach in Antigua told him he had to try something else since they had two established offspinners. "I said ok. I switched to leg spin ... I had to find something to stay in the game. I used to warm-up with legspin when I was a pacer and so I tried my hand at it."
His uncle was his chief mentor of his life. As he puts it his unique way, "My uncle didn't tolerate any crap. He was always serious. If you notice I am always serious too. I don't make jokes when the game is going on. When it's on my only friends are my team-mates."
Antigua is where he grew up and he was disappointed not to play in the fourth ODI. It spurred him on. "I went back to the hotel and thought the coach didn't think fit for me to play. I tell myself that whenever I get the opportunity to play I am going to show that I deserve to be there in the eleven."
More motivation was also at hand. "I didn't want the whitewash or the Indian wash!" He ended the press meet with more delightful gems. "I don't like losing. That 'L" word is not in my vocabulary. Only Love and Lord. Not Losing."
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala