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Chris Martin looks back on a 13-year career career: from shouldering the New Zealand attack to match-winning spells against South Africa, and his endearing batting skills
July 3, 2013
After 13 years of international cricket, why have you chosen now to retire?
I think I've probably known for a good six to twelve months that the passion and desire wasn't quite there and it was time to get out. I did want to get out by walking off the park in a Test match, so I stuck in there and gave that a good nudge, but the odds are that a 38-year-old around New Zealand's bowling group at the moment isn't really required. I'm going to sit back and enjoy watching the young guys have a crack.
Do you feel you're leaving with the pace stocks as strong as at any time in your career, with guys like Southee, Boult and Bracewell all coming through?
Yeah, and it's nice to see a group of bowlers coming through. Watching the good sides over the years, they tend to have a pack, a nice steady rotation of guys that can put pressure on each other to succeed and complement each other. I think Australia showed that with various people around Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, they had guys like Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz and Brett Lee, and New Zealand, in general, have had a bit of a revolving door of pace bowlers over the years. I'm probably the only one who really stuck it out for any length of time. But I'd like to see this group play together for another six to eight years, it would certainly make the captain's job a lot easier.
Only Richard Hadlee and Daniel Vettori have taken more Test wickets for New Zealand than you. That must make you incredibly proud?
I am pretty pleased. I was never the most skillful or naturally talented, but I did have enough skill and enough talent, and with hard work and determination I was able to stick in there and prove to myself that Test cricket was something that I was good at and enjoyed. I'm pleased to be on the table among some of our better players with the ball.
Is there a career highlight that sticks out?
I had a good Test match comeback against South Africa at Eden Park, where I got 11 for the match. We ended up with a Test win, which for New Zealand is pretty few and far between. It's never about that personal stuff, but if that helps us win a game then it definitely sticks in the memory. I had another game against India in India a couple of years ago when I got a five-for in a short space of time. I will remember that very fondly, because that's not a place you go to as a fast bowler and expect to do well.
You were getting some terrific swing in that match in Ahmedabad - that must have been a rarity for Indian conditions?
It's a bit strange with the balls these days, sometimes you turn up and the ball just does crazy things and you're not actually doing that much different. If it hoops, then you've got to make hay when that happens.
Your record against South Africa was especially impressive, and against Graeme Smith, in particular. What was it about bowling to them that you enjoyed?
My style of bowling, bringing the ball back into some of their right-handers with their forward press, was helpful, as well as straightening the odd one for the edge. To the left-handers, in particular, I've always swung the ball from the stump line away from them. Smith, with the way he plays and closes the bat, he found me pretty tough to handle at times. Mentally you have to bring your A-game against the South Africans, because they're such hard-nosed competitors. They had the better of us on most occasions, but every now and then personally I had good days against them.
|Over time, I did have aspirations to at least make it a little less horrendous to watch|
Phillip Hughes also struggled against you - he was caught in the cordon cheaply four times from four innings in Australia in 2011-12. Did it feel like every ball you bowled to him you were a real chance?
Yeah, there are certain techniques that really hate facing me. I think Phil, with his feet not really moving and not quite knowing where his off-pole was, he was having a tough series. That series against Australia was probably what made me play another couple of years. I thought after winning in Hobart, that kind of success of a New Zealand side beating a quality Australian side is something you want to taste again. So I was keen to stick in there for another couple of years, especially with the bowling group we had.
That win in Hobart must have felt like a very special achievement given New Zealand's lack of success against Australia in Tests over the years?
We were playing against a mortal Australian side rather than an immortal Australian side, which I had the brunt of for most of my career. You want to test yourself against the best but the Australian side [of past years] was something quite special. It was a tough period for New Zealand against Australia, but hopefully we can put up a bit more fight over the next few years.
Which batsmen did you find the most challenging to bowl against?
People who pick up length very quickly. Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting were the two who could make you feel very ordinary very quickly. A lot of people say that about the batsmen who tend to take slight risks against you and put you off your game. Other players do it in different ways. A guy like Jacques Kallis will grind you down and you could still be bowling to him six or seven sessions later. At various times, you bump into a guy who is at his peak, and I bumped into Ricky and Adam at their peak. They were both pretty scary, along with Matty Hayden. He was another imposing guy to bowl to.
Did it bother you that you didn't play much ODI and T20 cricket for New Zealand?
The thing about playing for the one-day side is they tend to get slightly better results and that builds a good team culture and environment. They always seemed to be having a bit more fun than the Test guys. But I think over time, I had more breaks and more opportunities to stay strong and fit and play quite a good role in the Test side because of that. There's a catch there in terms of income, but I think the way it panned out my main skill was bowling and I couldn't hit a lot with the bat and in the field, so it was realistic that I just played that one format for quite a while.
You mentioned your batting there - it certainly endeared you to fans around the world, but did you ever get embarrassed about it?
Absolutely, it's human nature to be embarrassed by something you're completely inept at. Over time, I did have aspirations to at least make it a little less horrendous to watch. I was just no good. If I didn't have a sense of humour about it then I'd probably beat myself up a wee bit. But I'll have to take a knock on the chin professionally and say that I wasn't quite up to it. But the irony of getting the applause and getting the odd standing ovation when I hit a boundary was never lost on me. I'll remember those fondly.
Were you always well aware of your batting stats, ducks and average and that sort of thing, or did you just put that out of your mind?
The batting average was around 4 for a while, which was not completely ridiculous. But when it started coming the other way I wasn't taking much notice. I suppose the number of ducks that I had over my Test career wasn't pretty reading, but what I can say in my defence is that I did turn down a lot of ones!
You once said that you hadn't learnt to bat properly as a young player because you didn't have a driver's licence and rode your bike to training and couldn't carry a bat with you - was that really the case?
It was semi tongue-in-cheek but there was a lot of reality in it as well. I didn't get my driver's licence until I was 28. The way cricket practice operated when I started was the bowlers turned up and bowled to the top six or eight and then you went home. That's pretty much how it worked. Now guys take a lot more pride in being multi-skilled. I missed the boat a wee bit on that. But I was always very fit because I would ride to practice.
What's next for you now - coaching or something completely away from cricket?
I think you have to step away from cricket and I'm quite looking forward to that. It will make when I do come back a little more fun and I can do it on my own terms. But I'll always be available to whoever needs me for a chat and a coffee or beer. I'll stay connected in some way but at the moment I think it's best to figure out what else I'm good at and what else I'm passionate for and get into it.
You must be looking forward to spending a lot more time with your family?
Yes, I've got a wife and two little girls. One is one year old and one is three and a half. They won't know much about me as a cricketer but they'll get to know a lot more about me as a dad, which is good.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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