Dean Tuckwell
Jan 11 2021

Martin Kent was a serious player.

Tall and imperious, he dismantled bowling attacks with copybook, powerful drives cuts and pulls. He was destined for big things when he scored 140 on debut against a test-strength NSW attack in the first Sheffield Shield match of the 1974/75 season but his 91 against Pakistan in 1981 was to be his last 1st class innings, his career cruelly cut short by a back injury.

Starting his career in the top order, his path to the Australian side was blocked by a strong batting line-up including the Chappell brothers and Doug Walters but he impressed enough judges in his first few seasons of Shield cricket to be invited to play World Series Cricket in 1977-1979. Initially his appearances in the top Australian XI were limited but he cemented his place on the tour of the West Indies with strong performances against the most feared fast bowling attack in history on their home turf.

When the World Series players were allowed back into the official Australian XI his path was hindered not only by the players mentioned earlier but by the ascendance of Kim Hughes and Allan Border. He moved to the top of the order and formed a prolific opening partnership for Queensland with Kepler Wessels. Greg Ritchie recalls being in awe in one of his first Shield matches as Kent scored 170 against Tasmania before a brisk 68 not out to wrap up the game late on the final day. He scored a stellar 941 runs @ 58.8 in the 1980/81 Shield season to demand selection on the 1981 Ashes tour and in the 4th test at Edgbaston he became Sandgate/Redcliffe’s first ever test cricketer scoring 46 in Australia’s modest 1st innings 258. He followed this with 52 off 45 balls in Australia’s miserable 130 in the 1st innings at Old Trafford before 54 opening the batting in the 6th test at The Oval to be one of the few promising batting stories against an England attack lead by a rampaging Ian Botham. The back injury forced him to withdraw from Australia’s next test against Pakistan at The Gabba and his career was over, his fans left to wonder what might have been.

“Super” played in an era where facial hair was all but compulsory. He is a devotee of the moustache still to this day but he brought something exotic to the Australian top order - a goatee long before it was made popular by George Michael. Looking like a James Bond villain with a classic cover drive, it seemed at times he should be brandishing a scimitar rather than a scoop.

Once an elegant figure gracing the Gabba, Sabina Park and The Oval, he is now a little less so as he clambers into his fishing boat in Queensland’s Great Sandy Strait.

Upon retirement from playing he is best known for running The Queensland Cricketers Club – a perfect role for a legendary Queensland cricketer.

Can you remember you first game of cricket?

Now you are testing me but it was at Monto State School around 1962. I remember in Grade 2 I was offered the Captaincy of the 2nd Eleven or a place in the 1st Eleven. I chose the latter!  I would have been about 7 or 8 and I think I took three wickets in my first game. Surprisingly I was probably a better bowler in my youth than a batsman.

Tell us briefly about your cricketing journey?  

Monto was my home through the ages 4 – 14 and was the start of my interest and desire to play cricket. I think I was 12 when I played for the Monto (men’s) side which I recall I enjoyed very much.

Thank goodness I wasn’t old enough to drink then as the old blokes always had a good time after cricket.

We had to travel around the district including Eidsvold, Biloela & Mundubbera etc and later I was selected to play in the State Schoolboys side for Central Queensland. That was in 1966 and I was selected again in ‘67. We had matches in Maryborough, Bundaberg and Rockhampton and the Interstate carnival in Townsville in ‘66 and then in Melbourne in ‘67. I went OK but nothing brilliant.

Didn’t quite make the Australian Schoolboys side but it didn’t matter at that point. Dad was in the National Bank and was transferred to Margate in ‘67 and I promptly joined Sandgate/Redcliffe. I had a few games in Intermediate, 1 in Reserve Grade I think and was then promoted to A Grade.

At what age did you make your first grade debut and can you remember how you performed?

I was 14 when I made my debut and I think it was at Bulimba. I think I only got 4 runs in my first game but played a few more in A Grade after that. Was demoted to Reserve grade momentarily and then spent the rest of my time in A Grade. I have no idea what my statistics were but the highlight was 5-12 against Valleys on a sticky wicket including the scalp of Malcolm Francke!

What was your highest score in senior cricket?  

I was lucky enough to get Easts on a flattop at Deagon one day and got 204not. Tony Dell was less than impressed but I think he still remembers it!

You played in some very strong Queensland sides and were twice runner-up in the Sheffield Shield. Do you have any stories of near misses that may have changed history?

Mate your research would be better than my memory but we were clearly denied by weather one year in Brisbane under the old system. In those days you had to take it on the chin.

Touring South Africa in 1976 with The International Wanderers you encountered some of that country’s greatest players – what are your recollections of that tour?

Probably one of the most exciting invitations I have ever received. Richie Benaud phoned and invited me to play and any hint of reason escaped me, as did the reason for “International Wanderers” to be touring South Africa. It was an extension of the Derek Robins Eleven I believe which predated 1976.

Simply to be in the company of the Chappells, Gus Gilmour, Rowdy Mallett, Max Walker, and Alan Hurst from Australia Mike Denness, Bob Taylor and Derek Underwood from England, West Indian John Shepherd and Kiwi batsman John Morrison was indeed an honour.

It’s probably timely to say that this really was the kicker for me to regain my competitive desire as I had given cricket away when I was 18 to play a season of baseball with the Redcliffe Whitesox and represented Qld State Schools against NSW. We played at Lang Park and I got flogged! I thought I was a reasonable pitcher but at least I learned from the experience. I later tried out for State representation under Ted Roebuck but was unsuccessful. Having the year off and coming back to cricket gave me purpose. Not long after that the above invitation came.

Richie was a little taken aback when I couldn’t make the intended flights in time to play a lead up match in Soweto (I think) as Elaine and I were married on 13th March 1976 and the first match was in Capetown on the 18th. They arranged a flight from Brisbane to Sydney and Sydney Johannesburg on the 14th. To this day Elaine feels really lucky that she went on a cricket tour for a Honeymoon....

Apart from the mix of Internationals in our side I got to witness some amazing cricketers in Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Eddie Barlow and Clive Rice, as well as a young Kepler Wessels. The world of cricket is the loser for not seeing more of these guys!

Barry Richards

Why was this tour sanctioned and yet players on subsequent South African tours were banned?

I’m not sure this tour was sanctioned or indeed the Derek Robins tours were sanctioned. Possibly because of the mix of nationalities and the purpose of the tour. I was warned by the State executive that if I accepted the tour I may not ever be able to tour the West Indies but I went anyway.

You were one of a handful of players contracted to World Series Cricket who hadn’t yet played for Australia – what were the details surrounding your invitation?

Austin Robinson rang me to make an appointment to see me in Brisbane. I was none the wiser as to what this was about as all discussions and contracts were held in a clandestine manner. He arrived from Sydney at the local TNT Branch where I worked and after some discussion put a document in front of me which was a contract to play “World Series Cricket” for three years from 1 October to 31 March each year.

The main attraction was that most of the world’s best cricketers had signed and he shared some pretty impressive names with me. Also that of Greg Chappell who I think was in England at the time.

I declined the offer because I had a good job and would have had to resign as I didn’t know what I would do for the other 6 months of each year. Also, the money for playing was good but nowhere near what I was getting as a salary at TNT. Austin got up and put the contract in his briefcase and said “Kerry won’t be happy” before returning to Sydney.

The next afternoon I was called in to the State Managers office to be told he had received a phone call from Sir Peter Abeles (Mr TNT). Sir Peter said to David Hay, “you have a boy who plays cricket working for you?” David replied “yes that would be Martin Kent”. Sir Peter said, “he will play for Kerry!”

So I got the gig, got the contract, and kept my salary. A day or so later Barbara Loois (now Ian Chappell’s wife) came to Brisbane with the contract to sign. In the meantime I had the opportunity to speak to Greg Chappell and he confirmed the quality of cricketers who had signed or been approached which made me even more comfortable. At no point was I hesitant about not having played for Australia but there were many threats from the executive again regarding my availability to do so in the future.

Sir Peter Abeles

Did you have any second thoughts when you were facing Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft and Daniel knowing that the official test side was up against Madan Lal and Mohinder Armanath? 

There was a fleeting moment when opening the batting against Michael Holding on a Cairns green top that I wished I had applied more time to golf as a career! But no, the opportunity and challenge was too good to decline.

What are your memories of playing against that great West Indian side and how do you rate those fast bowlers with the other great bowlers that you played?

I think the names you have mentioned speak for themselves in world cricket status and I am thankful that I wasn’t around with a few of their later stars. It would be fair to say that as a group there was no letup or relief of pressure as one spell finished, a new quick would emerge.

There was though the effect of paying more attention to wicket preservation in seeing each spell through which I enjoyed thoroughly when successful. I rate Andy Roberts as one of the best as he was always the hardest to score from. He gave you nothing with his accuracy, line, length and variation of pace, and his changeup delivery was as quick as anything at the time! Could swing the ball late too! The challenge was no less however with the others but you could always count on a scoring shot somewhere.

No disrespect to any of the other great names including Dennis Lillee but Richard Hadlee was the other bowler I found the most difficult to score from for many of the same reasons as Andy Roberts.

Andy Roberts

Who has been the best three spinners you have played with or against?

Derek Underwood, Lance Gibbs (in the nets even as an old bloke), and Ashley Mallett. “Deadly” was nicknamed that for a reason and whilst not a prodigious spinner of the ball his attributes were accuracy, line, length, and importantly variation of pace.

I faced Lance Gibbs in the nets in Kalgoorlie when doing a coaching session during World Series. I’ve never seen an offie spin the ball as much and with so much fizz! Roo Yardley was the only offie that came close on his home track in Perth. Ashley Mallet also for the same reasons as Derek Underwood. Interestingly I haven’t named any leggies as I really quite enjoyed facing them! Not sure about Warney though as not many got on top of him!

Lance Gibbs

Who has been the best 3 batsmen you’ve played with or against?

Too difficult to say with conviction as there were many who just had it. For example the 124 I saw Graeme Pollock make in Johannesburg in 1976 was the best 100 I’ve ever witnessed. I also watched a lot of Barry Richards and he had a completely different style but created so much time for himself so he is up there. The other Richards i.e. Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was the out and out favourite for me while Greg Chappell was undeniably his equal technically. So having mentioned those few names it is easy to see why it’s virtually impossible to narrow the list down to just 3.

Viv Richards

Who played the best innings you’ve seen firsthand?  

I fielded in the covers on the day Graeme Pollock made his ton and I rarely had the chance to stop a drive as his placement was impeccable. Unlike many batsmen these days he had a purpose and an art of finding the gaps, not the man.

Graeme Pollock

Who was your favourite wicketkeeper?

Rod Marsh – on and off the field!

Who are the two players you admired most in terms of skills and competitive spirit in the competitions you played?

Ian Chappell had no peer in his time as player and Captain and not a moment during the 6 or so hours of play each day did his attention or concentration wander from the job at hand on the field. Even If things didn’t go right he adopted the responsibility to find a way to change that to make them go right. Ian Botham rates in the same manner.

Ian Chappell - Australian Captain

You played the final 3 tests in the 1981 Ashes tour when Ian Botham, Bob Willis and fate thwarted any chance Australia had of winning the series after a winning start. What was the feeling like in the dressing room when you were being tortured by these miraculous performances?

I had an opportunity to get Australia over the line in the 4th Test at Edgbaston. I needed to keep my wicket with Dennis Lillee at the other end. In an effort to retain the strike and score a single at the end of a Botham over, I played across it and was bowled. They might have been miraculous performances as it was known as “Botham’s Ashes”, but I could have made a difference. Umpire Don Oslear presented me with a wicket at the end of the game as it was my debut and I was so disappointed I couldn’t accept it.

You played under Ian and Greg Chappell. Please give your thoughts on their captaincy.

Ian Chappell the best captain I have played under, Greg second, and Eddie Barlow third.

Who has been your funniest teammate?

Kerry O’Keefe “Skull” by a country mile.  In the West Indies in 1979 we had played three ODIs and a Test and Skull had not played a game but was picked for the 4th ODI in St Lucia. We arrived at the ground in the rain which continued. Everybody mulled around the dressing room in their trackies/civvies but Skull was resplendent in his creams, boots, pads, gloves and helmet. 

He had opened a pack of chewing gum and sat out on the verandah of the dressing room waiting to go into bat. We asked him what on earth he thought he was going to do

He replied. “I’ve waited so long on this tour to get a game so I polished up my bat and helmet for this day and they’re not going to go to waste!”

A week later we were in Barbados and as the hotel wasn’t far away from the ground Skull was one of several players chose to run back to the hotel at the end of a training session. As he jogged off a footpath a car came around the corner and cleaned him up - broken leg! We went to visit him in hospital with the obvious news that he was to be flown home for treatment and as he lay in the hospital bed he looked up at Captain Ian Chappell and said, “Well Bert, a pretty good record here for me, played none, lost none!”

Kerry O'Keefe

Who were your childhood heroes?

Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry

Who are the most famous people outside cricket whom you have met through your involvement in the game?

The Queen in 1981. Kerry Packer, Paul Hogan, John Cornell and Delvine Cornell (Delaney). Note I haven’t mentioned any Prime Ministers but John Howard rates!

Kerry Packer

Who’s your favourite cricket commentator? 

Kerry O’Keefe and although probably sounds corny, it would be hard to replace the initial combination of Tony Greig, Max Walker, Bill Lawry, and Ian Chappell.  

What was your favourite ground to play at?

Any one that I was picked to play at. The Gabba, Adelaide Oval, Lords.

What’s been your most memorable moment in cricket?

It was in 1997 when I received an invitation from Channel 9 to keep a particular date aside. A followup invitation confirmed the date for the 20 year anniversary of World Series Cricket to be held at the 9 studios in Sydney.

It was a young James Packer who asked dad what he would like for his 60th birthday and the reply was “let’s have a WSC reunion”.  Kerry paid for everybody’s airfares and accommodation and he flew all the internationals to Australia First Class! It was indeed a memorable night and I remember saying to Elaine on my return that I don’t need anything more from cricket, that experience will never be surpassed.

What’s the best win you’ve been involved with?

I think the first Sheffield game I played at the Gabba against NSW. We were in a bit of trouble early in our first innings but recovered to win convincingly. John Maclean played a memorable innings and it showed me what dogged determination was all about.

Who are the three players from your playing days at the top of the list for a Saturday afternoon barbeque?

Doug Walters, Rod Marsh, Jeff Thomson

How did you get your nickname?

“Superman” was given to me back in Sandgate Redcliffe days by the lads and probably because I might have pulled off a freak catch or something similar together with the obvious surname of “Kent” (ie Clark Kent) so Superman seemed to fit.

Martin Kent batting for Australia

How did you hurt your back?

During a school match at Deagon and I recall hurting it while bowling. I wasn’t aware at that time that I had a few mechanical issues going on with my spine so the back problem has been with me since my teens. Unfortunately over time this worsened and developed into referred pain and nerve damage etc.

What was your career after cricket?

Through my cricket career I was in the National Bank, worked at TNT Transport, Budget Rent a Car, Prudential Assurance, and the last 20 years in the hospitality industry, 17 of those running the Queensland Cricketers’ Club.

What are your hobbies?

I’ve always enjoyed golf and still play (poorly). I enjoy fishing and crabbing which we do in the Sandy Straits although it’s getting harder for me. Motor Racing is also a great interest of mine as I’m a bit of a “petrol head”.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

My Mum said to me once “son, if you ever get a choice of two, take both!”

If you were running Cricket QLD what would be your priorities to ensure cricket in the state remained strong and successful on and off the field?

That one is far too hard as I’m no longer close to or watch the current and local forms of the game. Life is too busy in retirement to be stressed with finding solutions to that one.

About Dean Tuckwell

Former premiership first grade player with Western Suburbs in Queensland Premier Cricket Dean opened The Adventure Traveller in 2000.

In this crazy year it is important to support small business. With 30 years’ experience in the travel industry Dean has preferred arrangements with many suppliers, access to online deals not available to the public and a wealth of knowledge to ensure you get the most out of your trip so even if you only require a flight or accommodation, give him a call on 1800 181 020 or visit The Adventure Traveller

If you'd like to see more content from Dean Tuckwell, they'd be very grateful for your support and contribution. Dean Tuckwell will receive 80% of all funds contributed.
Dean Tuckwell
Director of The Adventure Traveller | Travel Specialist. Former first grade player for Western Suburbs in Queensland Premier Cricket