Leaving brings the best out of Richardson

Close up, it is Mark Richardson's piercing, light blue eyes that dominate his lean, fit face. The curls in his hair and the stubble on his chin are greying even though his Test debut was only four years ago. But he was 29 already. Those blue eyes have served him well since then. Two innings over 13 hours 33 minutes in the First Test at Lord's were evidence that he is the best leaver of the ball in Test cricket. His dogged perseverance has produced a commendable average of 48.26 in 55 Test innings. He now stands at No 10 in the world batting rankings.

Close up, it is Mark Richardson's piercing, light blue eyes that dominate his lean, fit face. The curls in his hair and the stubble on his chin are greying even though his Test debut was only four years ago. But he was 29 already. Those blue eyes have served him well since then. Two innings over 13 hours 33 minutes in the First Test at Lord's were evidence that he is the best leaver of the ball in Test cricket. His dogged perseverance has produced a commendable average of 48.26 in 55 Test innings. He now stands at No 10 in the world batting rankings.

After England's thrilling victory, Richardson felt compelled to get away for a couple of days: "I was absolutely stuffed," he says. He did some desultory shopping with his partner, and they went to Madame Tussauds. He was coming down fast from an emotional high: 93 in the first innings, 101 in the second, which got his name on the board in the visitor's dressing room. He had been disappointed when he was given out lbw - wrongly - in the first innings. But he got over that: "that's not bad first up," he thought, especially after the bout of nerves before the game, following a poor series against South Africa recently.

At the start of his second innings his primary concern was not to be out cheaply. He didn't want four to follow 93 on the scorecard: "I worked to bat as long as I could, and, when I got into the 80s, I thought 'I might get a hundred here if I concentrate'. He was holding back the tears when it happened; then it was tea, applause in the Long Room, and fuss from the team.

"I wasn't really mentally there after tea," he says. He was caught behind off Stephen Harmison and immediately regretted not scoring another 20 or 30 and batting England out of the match. "That ruined it for me a little because it was my responsibility and I failed in that respect." Defeat by seven wickets; four would have been more just. "We were devastated," he admits. "We felt we were in it the whole way and we couldn't come good in the home straight. Defeat doesn't hurt so much when you know you weren't in the race. At Lord's we were in it the whole way, and that did hurt."

Modest is Richardson: modest height, modest build, and modest nature. He's open, easy smile, good talker, but, by God, he is a worrier, acutely conscious of failure, and, occasionally, of success. "From the minute I get out till the minute I get in again, I worry about the next innings."

The prospect of England's seam attack at Headingley is daunting, but he deliberately harnesses worry. "I'm motivated by fear of failure. I failed once as a spinner and I don't want to fail again as a batsman."

He is a legend in a brief lifetime; Richardson was the slow left-arm spinner who quit when he got the yips, but realised, after bumming around a bit, that all he wanted to do was play cricket, so he set about transforming himself. "I was an eight or nine batsman who didn't get behind the ball. I was scared - still am - but I knew I had to get over this instinct. I was good for 14 with a cover drive and a hook but then I'd be out, nicked to slip, driving into the covers with an open face. So I started to learn the value of leaving."

He admired John Wright and wanted to emulate him as New Zealand's opener, but his coach at Otago would not hear of it. Consequently, Richardson approached the selectors himself, when they were choosing an A team for the England tour in 2000.

He had already played in the middle-order for the A team, but he now said: "Look, if you want me, take me as an opener." He was 28 already, but they obliged, and he averaged 71.33 in 11 innings, including 212 on an easy wicket at Hove - in 11 hours. He made his debut for the Black Caps the following winter.

His batting was based on a negative principle: "You've got to learn to leave on length," he says. "If you're caught at slip playing balls that are missing the wicket, it's a mental error." He has a word of his own to describe this tactic; it is "outpatienting" the bowler. Despite scoring 68 of his 93 runs at Lord's in boundaries, he doesn't consider himself a striker of the ball. His boundaries were a reaction to good English bowling, which forced him to drive into the covers.

In the Leicestershire nets at Grace Road last week, Richardson experimented with small changes in his foot movement. There were no secrets, he said: "I always end up falling back on what's natural. That's blocking the shit out of it." We know now that to be true.

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all