Douglas Marillier - Before, during and after the rupture
Harare, by Prakash Govindasreenivasan • Last updated on Thursday, 23 June, 2016, 09:43 AM
Erstwhile cricketer, now real estate is Douglas Marillier's calling.
"It started abruptly and ended even more (abruptly)," says Douglas Marillier, of his brief international career, as he settles down with a drink in hand at the Straddler's Cricket Club in the Harare stadium for a chat. Marillier was just 16 when a horrifying car crash nearly crushed his dreams of representing Zimbabwe.
"I was in a vehicle to a school heading out of town, about 100 kilometers away from town. We had a head-on collision with a truck. I broke both my legs. The right femur severed the main artery, so I lost a lot of blood. My left leg was crushed above my knee. And I was in a wheelchair for a long time. A lot of doctors said that I wouldn't walk again," he reminisces.
"But at 16 years old, I think you heal a bit quicker than I would've done at 25. The fact that it happened to me then, although it set me back a year or two, luckily happened when it did. My body was able to cope with what damage it did and a year later, I came out playing cricket. Cricket did to a certain extent get me through, because I had such passion for cricket that whilst lying in a bed or sitting in a wheelchair, I visualised myself playing cricket for my country."
Later on, Marillier fulfilled his dream to pull on the national jersey, but that lasted for just three years. Twelve years since he decided to bring a pre-mature end to his international career, he narrates the reason behind the tough decision.
"I had a family, I had a son on the way so I had to make the decision, unfortunately at 25, to pull the plug and stop playing cricket and look for a proper job," he recalls.
Marillier, who debuted in 2000, played with the finest crop of Zimbabwean cricketers until turmoil struck a year later. Marillier was always in and out of the national side and since the onset of the political troubles, his opportunities began to diminish further. "In this country, you got paid when you're playing. You didn't make much money when you weren't," he explains the reason behind trading his cricket kit for formal wear as he turned to real-estate business.
"Unfortunately, T20 hadn't started back then," he says with a bit of regret. Despite playing just 48 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and five Tests, Marillier showed traces of being a fine innovator in the game. On a slow wicket in Faridabad in 2002, Marillier stunned India by scooping and lapping his way to a 21-ball half-century.
"I never saw us losing. I remember telling Tatenda Taibu, 'if you bat with me throughout the game, we'll win the match'. Because I was hitting the ball very nicely and I could see the direction I thought the game was going," he says coolly. He had walked out to bat with Zimbabwe needing to score 66 runs off just 34 balls, a near-impossible task back then.
"Some of the crowd started to leave because they had resigned to the fact that India would win. Because there was nothing to lose, it gave us a license to try and do something a little different. A guy like Zaheer Khan, who had taken four wickets up to that point, was probably easier to face on that slow wicket than he would've been on a faster wicket," he adds.
Marillier indeed pulled off the unthinkable, his 30-ball unbeaten knock of 56, with 10 fours and one six, was an incredible achievement. However, it wasn't the first time he decided to take on a bowler in an unexpected manner. Before Zaheer had to contend with Marillier's cheeky strokeplay, an in-form Glenn McGrath had to face the music.
At the cathedral of fast bowling, Perth, Marillier arrived at the crease with 15 to get in an over in an ODI in 2001. "To do something like that was a bit risky, a bit unheard of, specially, for a guy coming in down the order. They wouldn't have expected it," he recalls.
Marillier was facing Glenn McGrath for the first time in his life, but walked across and scooped the first ball for a four to the fine leg fence. The audacity was repeated off the third ball to similar effect. The sight of McGrath wearing a wry smile and shaking his head on his way back to the run-up summed up the situation. There was a rationale behind Marillier's madness.
"Due to the way the captains thought at that time that you bowl yorkers, and he was good at bowling yorkers, and you put the men back on the off-side, I tried those shots" he explains. Zimbabwe lost the game by a run but Marillier's efforts and the scoop shots were lauded.
Fast-forward to 2016, 15 years since Marillier dared to think out of the box, and you will find those shots in abundance in the current era. Batsmen of today are almost expected to be able to possess a cheeky streak to their stroke-play. Along the way, Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan became a master of a similar shot that went on to be called the 'Dilscoop'
"It's agitating to have come up with something like that which you didn't get the opportunity to fully expose. If I played a few more games, it could've been named after me," Marillier laments.
"I gave up the game at 25 and I had 48 ODI games. If you look at the guys playing today, they're playing till they're 34-35 years old. Theoretically, I'd have had another 300 games available to me. Maybe, I wouldn't have played in those games, but I would've been in the mix. At 27-28, having played 100-odd games, maybe some maturity would've come through and I would've been able to settle down and become a proper cricketer," he rues.
It has been over a decade since he decided to walk away from the field but it hasn't quite sunk in yet. "It's hard for me to think that I haven't played cricket for this country for 12 years. People still associate me more with cricket, than they do with property. I've been doing property for 12-13 years," he says. "It's nice for my children because they love the sport."
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