When the fresh-faced Matt Renshaw was a kid, he was faced with a problem. He loved batting sessions in the backyard but his father Ian had this simple rule: “You can bat as long as you don’t get out.” Renshaw chose to bat on and on. He faced similar hurdles in the years to come. The rule in the tournaments that the teenager played in was that batsmen had to retire after scoring 50. He had to find a way out. Luckily for him, not only wasn’t he imposingly built (as he is now at 20) but also didn’t have much power. He chose to use it to his advantage and take as much time as possible to reach 50. No wonder all that patience and love for batting helped him make an impressive 60 in alien conditions and in a pressure-cooker situation with 11 Indians trying their best to get under his skin.
When Shaun Marsh came to India for IPL in 2008, five years after Steve Waugh had called him a “special player” after a hundred in domestic cricket, he hadn’t still played for Australia. His problems were different from Renshaw’s. It wasn’t just the batting that interested him but he was more into partying and guzzling vodka, and was even suspended by Western Australia in 2007 after a drinking binge with his friend and another troubled teammate Luke Pomersbach. It was India that revived his career. In an IPL minute, a star was born. He had arrived as Geoff Marsh’s son, but by the end of the tournament, Swampy would have been a proud dad. He smashed 59 fours, 26 sixes and looted 616 runs from 11 games at a strike rate of 140 in that IPL. Australia noticed and he made his debut almost immediately. Not that the journey was any smoother — he has been dropped often, his back has given way, and it could be said that a bad series in India here might well have brought the curtains on his international career.
Both had strong fathers in their own right. Shaun’s was the more famous one — Geoff who played for Australia, a name that would be very familiar to Indians of an earlier generation. For most of us, it was Marsh and Boon, names taken together. They would tap and run, milk the Indian bowling, and generally run them ragged. The cricket magazines would carry fascinating stories about Shaun’s dad. How once Boon woke up to see Geoff in a baggy green cap but with nothing else on — shadow-batting in the nude.
Renshaw’s dad Ian is a university sports scientist who has works with Greg Chappell in the Brisbane academy and has been a coach of district club teams in the past. It was Ian who taught him to value his wicket. So patient did he become that once he took 47 balls to get off the mark in a game against Tasmania. The story goes that the Tasmanians would shout “Tick, tock, tick, tock” between every over, comparing his batting with an old clock. What did Renshaw do? He just smiled.
Just as he did to the Indians who tried every trick in the world — from pushing to verbals — to disrupt his focus. More often than not, he smiled at them.
Marsh didn’t bother smiling. He just did what he does: stay deadly quiet. Both took a similar approach to blunt the Indian attack. As ever, he stayed still on the legstump guard, made no premediated movements, picked the length early and trusted his defence against spin and seam. Renshaw, whose defensive technique mirrors fellow Queenslander Matthew Hayden, used his height to curb the spin, and defended with great skill.
The baby-faced youngster who loves batting and 33-year old man who once loved partying more than batting came together to ensure Australia remained ahead in Bangalore.