As many as 421 sons have worn the baggy green for Australia, but only two have had fathers who also wore the baggy green. Shaun Marsh (left) being presented the baggy green cap by his father Geoff Marsh was an incredibly special moment
As many as 421 sons have worn the baggy green for Australia, but only two have had fathers who also wore the baggy green. Shaun Marsh (left) being presented the baggy green cap by his father Geoff Marsh was an incredibly special moment

 

By Justin Langer

 

As many as 421 sons have worn the baggy green for Australia, but only two have had fathers who also wore the baggy green. The last of these was over a century ago and it was far less successful than the one we witnessed in this second Test match against Sri Lanka at Kandy.

 

Before the game, Shaun Marsh was presented with his baggy green cap by his father Geoff. Traditionally, the cap presentation is led by a past legend of Australian cricket and as a 50-Test match veteran and former vice-captain, and coach, of the Australian cricket team, Geoff is certainly a legend of our past.

 

Having him present Shaun with the cap was an incredibly special moment and one that I found very moving. As a father, I can only imagine how proud Geoff felt when he heard of Shaun’s selection, but then to be invited to present his own son with a baggy green cap was a wonderful event.

 

In an interview for Cricket Australia TV, I asked Geoff how he held it together during the presentation and he admitted that it was very emotional him.

 

He also concluded by saying that he wanted to add one more sentence to his short speech, but knew that he would have found this hard to complete in front of the group.  When quizzed, he told me that he really wanted to let Shaun know that, “whether he played one Test or one hundred Tests for Australia, that he would always be his best mate.”

 

This final comment wasn’t a surprise to me because I have watched Shaun grow up from a young boy and it has always been apparent how close he is to his family. Such connection made the moment a golden one, because I knew that a better person couldn’t have been chosen to hand over the coveted baggy green cap than Shaun’s dad, Geoff.

 

Putting aside the emotion of the occasion, Australia’s latest debutant went about creating a dream. On the beautiful and picturesque Kandy Cricket Ground, Shaun played the innings of his life. Scoring 141 runs on your debut Test match is what dreams are made of, and I know that Shaun was still pinching himself last night, hardly believing what had transpired over the last five days.

 

In the last few years, Shaun has forged a reputation as a hard-hitting batsman in the shorter versions of the game, but here he played a masterful and chanceless innings, reminiscent of some of the master technicians of Test match cricket. While his attacking shots were brutal and easy on the eye, it was his sound defense and ability to leave the ball outside the off stump that made his innings valuable, and so promising for the future.

 

Showing maturity beyond his cricketing experience, he has set a high standard for himself, but if his temperament here is anything to go by, then his future in the longest form looks exciting.

 

Shaun’s dream was completed when he had the chance to bat with another Test match master in Mike Hussey. In a partnership spanning 259 runs, the lessons learned from batting with ‘Mr Cricket’ will be priceless.

 

Not only did their partnership set up a victory opportunity for Australia but it showed once again what an asset Mike Hussey is to this Australian team. At 36 years of age, Mike’s energy is limitless and his preparation still peerless. Scoring centuries is one thing, but his example on and off the field is immeasurable and it is a joy to see him enjoying the accolades at this stage of his career. Consecutive man of the match awards is a tribute to an outstanding player and person.

 

Unfortunately, the weather became an unwelcome factor in the outcome of this Test match. For the last few weeks I have been giving my friend and commentator Tom Moody a hard time about carrying an umbrella around with him every morning as a shield for the raging sun here in Sri Lanka. He has argued that without it, he would be sweating profusely in front of the cameras before play.

 

Of course I have accused him of being a little precious, but over the last five days I have almost had to steal his umbrella from him; not as protection from the sun, but rather from the heavy rain that scarred this match.

 

Watching the dark clouds roll in day after day was frustrating, especially as we felt so close to securing the match and this series. Understanding the philosophy of ‘controlling the controllables’ is one thing, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating when the uncontrollables feel like they are stealing away a marvelous opportunity.

 

These last few days have felt a bit like Skype. When you are on Skype you can see and talk to your loved ones, but it is still never the same as being in the same room with them, being able to touch them and hug them. Great as Skype is, it can still be a frustrating not to be able to be that one step closer than modern technology provides.

 

Here in Kandy, we felt so close and enjoyed many positives from the Test match, but the reality is that we didn’t get our hands on the trophy, and we still have much to do to realise the ambition we came here for. This series is very important to this Australian cricket team. And like a marathon, we still have to push through the wall to enjoy the fruits and satisfaction of the finish line.

 

Back-to-back Test matches are always tough, but now a third Test in succession will be an almighty challenge for our relatively young team. The return of Ricky Ponting is sure to add a welcome spark to the group and is going to be a headache at the selection table over the next few days. Such headaches are great, except for the deserving player who has to make way for one of the all time great players in the game.

 

Fun and games here in Colombo.

 

Roll on, Friday…

 

(Justin Langer was an integral part of the all-conquering Australian cricket team and formed one of the greatest opening partnerships in the game with Mathew Hayden. Langer played 105 Tests and scored 7,696 runs, including 23 Test centuries. In 2009, he surpassed Sir Donald Bradman as the most prolific batsman in Australian cricket with a total of 28,068 first-class runs. In November 2009, he was appointed as Batting/Mentoring Coach for the Australian cricket team and in May 2011 was appointed to the full-time role as Assistant Coach. Langer espouses the philosophy of encouraging excellence which incorporates his belief in the power of passion, vision, leadership, mentoring and developing a winning mentality. He is a keynote speaker, performance consultant, mentor, philanthropist and author. Read all about Langer on his website http://www.justinlanger.com.au/)