Farewell, Katey Martin: the Tom Brady of New Zealand Cricket
“Katey (Martin) had her 37th birthday the other day, but you wouldn’t believe it the way she is throwing herself around the stumps. We are actually calling her the Tom Brady of our team. She doesn’t seem to age.” Lea Tahuhu looked delighted as she made the comparison, after New Zealand’s convincing victory over India in February 2022. Her captain, Sophie Devine, nodded in agreement.
Just an hour before that press conference, 37-year-old wicketkeeper Katey Martin had taken a one-handed blinder, diving to her left, to dent India’s chances of winning the one-off T20I.
The comparison with one of the greatest players to play American Football was not exaggerated. Brady, who famously won his seventh Super Bowl Championship in 2021 at the age of 43, was still agile and shrewd in his final season. Tahuhu and her teammates were in awe of Martin’s acrobatics at the age of 37, but there’s more to her than what meets the eye. One of Martin’s innings almost pulled off an exceptional comeback, just like the mighty Brady who helped the New England Patriots clinch the title when they were trailing 28-3.
February 6, 2017.
NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas.
The Atlanta Falcons and Brady’s New England Patriots clashed in the SuperBowl LI. After a scoreless first quarter, Falcons put up a show with 21 points in the second. The Patriots looked clueless against the team from Georgia and could manage only 3 points. At one moment in the third quarter, the Falcons were leading the Patriots by 25 points. New England needed their “Comeback Man” and Brady delivered.
On the back of Brady’s 43 complete passes, the Patriots scored 25 points without any interruption from the Falcons to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation time. For the first time in the history of the Superbowl, overtime was forced. By the end of overtime, the Patriots were champions once again, with Brady bagging the Most Valuable Player (MVP) title for the fourth time.
It was called the “Greatest comeback in the history of American Football” by American media.
March 4, 2022.
Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui.
New Zealand faced West Indies in the opening match of the ODI World Cup. Hayley Matthews’ fine century took West Indies to their highest-ever score against the hosts in the World Cup. When Martin joined Devine, the Kiwis needed 98 runs off 92 balls. The latter was 12 runs away from a century in what could have been the highest chase in World Cup history. In the 41st over, Devine pushed a delivery from Chinelle Henry into a gap to reach her sixth ODI century. On the next ball, Deandra Dottin dropped Martin at backward point.
As Devine added eight more runs after her century, Henry finally broke the resistance of the Kiwi captain with a brilliant caught and bowled. New Zealand needed 45 runs off 35 balls. They had three wickets in hand. With Jess Kerr at the other end, Martin kept her side afloat with 33 off 42. In American Football, Quarterback runs the offensive play, Martin was doing that job when her team needed to make the Brady-esque comeback.
In the final two overs, the hosts needed 20 runs off 12 balls. West Indies captain Stefanie Taylor handed Henry the ball to make the most of the penultimate over. Kerr and Martin scored six runs off the first four balls. No boundary conceded. Taylor made some changes to the field, before the fifth ball and Martin hammered it over long-on for a four. Henry’s final delivery of the day was clobbered over the point region for another boundary.
From 20 off the last two overs, New Zealand needed just six runs off six balls. The wicket-keeper was out in the middle with a clutch performance for the ages. If Kerr and Martin managed to score a run-a-ball, the hosts would have celebrated the Great Escape, otherwise, West Indies were about to deliver the unthinkable.
But, sports is not always about fairytales.
Dottin, who dropped Martin when she was on 22, took it upon herself to deliver the final over. First ball: Kerr middled it, only to score one. Five needed off five. Martin was in charge of New Zealand’s destiny. Dottin with West Indies’ future in her hand. It was going to end in heartbreak for someone.
Dottin steamed in and delivered a pitch-perfect yorker. A toe-crusher to trap Martin in front. A review didn’t help Martin and New Zealand. A distraught Martin left the field in shock.
New Zealand lost two more wickets in that “Dottin Over” and West Indies’ redemption was complete.
Martin’s Brady-esque innings almost pulled off a stunning victory for New Zealand.
“She is fantastic for us. She is an absolute ball of energy even at 37 years old,” Tahuhu laughed in the post-match press conference after New Zealand’s convincing victory against India at the Seddon Park in Hamilton. Martin had played a crucial role in the match with the stumping of India’s captain Mithali Raj and a catch of fiery all-rounder Sneh Rana.
“If you think about it India has two 39 year olds (Raj and veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami), we have got a 37-year-old and they are out there all performing at the same time. It’s pretty special and pretty cool for women’s game,” Tahuhu said.
The proud wicketkeeper from Otago announced her retirement on May 18 after winning the inaugural FairBreak Invitational T20 tournament with Tornadoes. She will be remembered for many reasons, and among the top would be that she was the Tom Brady of New Zealand Cricket. An ageless wonder who kept doing the unthinkable till the very end.