'I have achieved enough goals to be personally proud'
Mark Richardson's decision to retire from all forms of cricket after one more first-class game for Auckland is a direct result of the nature of the itineraries around the world. Richardson's style of batting meant that he was branded a Test specialist, and with tours increasingly consisting of more one-day internationals and fewer first-class games, he got fewer opportunities - and it finally took its toll on the mental side of his game. Richardson admitted that the constant demand to turn up for international matches with very little matchplay contributed to 99% of the burnout factor that forced him to retire.
Richardson has been an inspiration to less-fashionable cricketers in New Zealand. Driven by the desire to represent his country from the age of ten, he started off as a left-arm spinner, then completely redefined his game and developed his batting after suffering from a case of the bowling yips. His was a classic example of what could be achieved by sheer determination and hard work.
A player with immense powers of concentration, he was undisturbed by the pace of events around him. However, he revealed that he started contemplating retirement as long ago as last season, during the home series against South Africa. He was taking a long time to recover from his disappointments, and not getting so much joy from his successes. One of his best Tests was against England at Lord's earlier this year, when he scored 93 and 101. However, after that game he felt he had left some desire out in the middle. After the series in England, he was further convinced that his time in cricket was limited: "When I came back from England I was absolutely exhausted and although I trained and worked hard, when it came to leave for the next series I just didn't feel I wanted to be playing cricket."
A player who enjoyed a laugh, something that not many of today's cricketers can claim, he also spoke his mind, and it was no surprise that having made the decision to retire he did it so promptly, without looking back. There is time for one more game, a match against Canterbury at Hagley Oval which will allow him the chance to score the 41 runs he needs to pass the 10,000-run mark.
"I do not want people to think I'm quitting in the face of adversity. If this was the case I would have walked away a long time ago. I'm leaving in advance of the home series [against Sri Lanka] because I feel it would be doing my team-mates, the country and the Black Cap a disservice to carry on half-heartedly. I believe it is best for all parties that I retire now and give someone else the opportunity to bring some new talent and positive energy into the team.
"I believe I am not leaving the game on a downer. I am leaving having achieved enough goals to be personally proud. I have a Test bowling average that is better than Sir Richard Hadlee's, and a 50-50 record in the end-of-series running race."
Richardson said he had never been able to switch off from cricket and that was probably why his international career was shorter than it could have been. He thought it was a fault of his character that he tended to get too down after his failures and too up after his successes.
He ends his career having played 38 successive Tests and scored 2776 runs at 44.77, including four centuries and 19 half-centuries. Richardson rated the Australian Test attack New Zealand had just faced as the most ruthless he had ever faced, and certainly a tougher opposition than New Zealand had experienced in the summer of 2001-02.
His challenge to opposing sides for their slowest man to race him at the end of a Test series has become synonymous with Richardson's approach to cricket. He retired with a 50-50 record in the races, his most recent success having been at Darren Lehmann's expense.
New Zealand have had problems with their top-order batting, and now have to find a replacement for Richardson as well. As a player who captured the attention of the nation for his distinctive approach from the game, he will be missed on the field, but there is every chance that his desire to get involved in sports journalism will see him still attached to the game.