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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England