Martin bowled over as his fortunes turn

By David Leggat

Thankfully Northland's Bruce Martin wasn't picked to make his debut in the first test against South Africa.

The ex-Kerikeri local was an outside chance, but even though he didn't get a first cap, he's loving his New Zealand call-up. After all, it's been 12 years since his last.

The left-arm spinner is in South Africa, aiming to enjoy an Indian summer in a career which almost began with a dramatic test debut.

Martin made his first-class debut for Northern Districts in 1999-00 at 19, after captaining Kamo earlier, making such an impact he was named in the New Zealand 12 for the third test against Australia that March.

"Tuffers [Daryl Tuffey] and I were living together and I rang him up and said: 'I've just got a phone call; I'm in the Black Caps'," said Whangarei-born Martin. "He said 'so have I'."

The way Martin remembers it, he was set to play, but rain meant the Seddon Park covers stayed in place and Tuffey got the nod.

So what happened? He'd seemed set for a decent international run.

"I was so young then," said Martin. "I didn't know what was going on. It was just a whirlwind, and it never really happened."

He had a few lean seasons and trod water as a capable first-class bowler without being able to take the next step. Dan Vettori was by then well established. Others, such as Paul Wiseman and Jeetan Patel were around when a second spinner was needed, which was rare.

Martin knew he needed a change. He moved north for the 2010-11 season and hasn't looked back. Since, he's taken 84 wickets at 31.4 each, a few runs better than his overall numbers. But it's the mindset that has really changed and for that he's indebted to Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins.

"I'm trying to get wickets now. Down there [at ND] I'd get asked to bowl 10 maidens until the new ball because we had all the seamers," he said. "I was a stock bowler. Hoppy says, 'Go and get some wickets'. When the game is on the line, he throws me the ball ..."

His batting has come on as well, with a second first-class hundred, 114 against ND last month, and he's averaging 40 this season.

When he was picked in the test squad for South Africa the mind briefly flashed back 12 years.

"Yeah I was a little bit surprised. I was wondering who the hell's calling me at 8am on a day off."

So what of this chance? Vettori is sidelined. Offspinner Patel is in the republic too, but has been around a while without really nailing a spot.

"I have to take it as it could be the start of something. I think I've got five or six good years left in me ... "I'm just 32, I know my game pretty well, have got it sorted and I'm enjoying myself so hopefully there could be good things to come."

He knows his figures stand up well and part of him also takes the view that "it's a just reward because I've worked my arse off in the last couple of years and I feel I've got the game to play test cricket".

You'd like to think this story has a happy ending some time in the next fortnight.

- Northern Advocate

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