September 28, 2000

Short trip left Richardson hankering for more

No sooner had Mark Richardson jetted into Zimbabwe to start his international cricket career than it felt like he was on his way home again.

Even if it seemed like a fleeting visit, Richardson managed to commit a fair amount of carnage during his stay.

A triple century in a warm up first-class game and 99 in his second Test match represented a significant arrival on the international scene.

Now, once the jetlag is sorted out from his return trip, it is time to sit down to absorb and assess all that he has done.

Then he knows he must prepare himself for the job of dealing with bowlers likely to be considerably faster when he heads back for the South African leg of the tour.

"It all went past pretty quick, but slowly it is starting to sink in.

"Scoring a triple century in a first-class game was enjoyable but when you are picked to play for New Zealand your focus is playing the international games.

"It was nice to earn my right to a Test spot with the triple, but I value the 99 more," he told CricInfo today.

Being the latest Otago player to reach triple century territory after Roger Blunt, Bert Sutcliffe, Glenn Turner and Ken Rutherford, Richardson did find himself facing uncharted territory in terms of the effort required of him during the innings.

Getting past 150 was a significant step.

"That gives you a new reason to stay in. The hardest thing is to try and maintain the level of concentration.

"I got to the point where I was on about 270 when I was starting to get a bit loose and I didn't really mind if I got out.

"But Adam Parore was my partner at that time and he said to me that I was probably as close as I was ever going to get to have the chance to score 300 so I shouldn't blow it.

"I decided then to put my head down and see it through. After the 300 I really came down quick," he said.

What the innings did do was allow Richardson to avoid the nervous pangs most cricketers feel before their first Test.

"Surprisingly, I wasn't overly nervous going into the game, but I was a little disappointed in my own performance.

"I was thrilled to be part of what was a damned good team display and to have a win in my first Test.

"But I got out to balls that I probably shouldn't have got out to."

He scored six and 13 in the first Test.

"Mathew Sinclair set the bar as far as debut players are concerned when he scored his double century last year, so it was disappointing to miss out," he said.

Richardson felt he let a few people down by not posting his century.

Put that down to experience however, and if there is one thing that Richardson has already shown in his development as an opener, it is that he is a quick learner.

While he's spent a fair amount of time earning international flying points getting to and from Zimbabwe, he's got his feet firmly on the ground and knows what lies ahead in South Africa.

"The challenge of the South African quicks is going to be a little bit different to the Zimbabwe attack," he said.

A little bit of tinkering with his technique and tactical approach remains to be done before resuming his international campaign. He'll be working with his Otago team-mates in that area and is looking forward to playing some club cricket before heading back to Africa.

"I'll be getting a few throw-downs from Lachlan Weir which I am grateful for," he said.

He'll also be working on his fielding skills having recently moved under the close fieldsman's lid at short-leg.

The move to specialise so close to the bat, and where he pulled in some outstanding catches in the Test series, was the result of discussion with coach David Trist during the New Zealand 'A' tour of England earlier this year.

"I've become such a draught horse in the field. I wouldn't have looked good in the covers and I wasn't going to get into the slips cordon.

"Tristy said to me that the fielding expectations are so high at international level that I needed to think about it.

"Fielding at short-leg is hard on my back but I quite like being there and would like to make it permanent," he said.

Renowned as a player who hasn't been short of a comment towards batsmen when in the field, Richardson said he keeps a little quieter now, although he said he still passed the odd comment in the batsmen's direction.

Being so close to the batsmen, he also had a good chance to assess the improvement of his Otago team-mates, left-armer Shayne O'Connor and off-spinner Paul Wiseman.

"Shayne is a yard quicker than last year. His lines he is bowling are exceptional and the workload he got through in the second Test was instrumental to our win.

"I hadn't seen him bowling before we want away and I was quite surprised at the pace he has gained."

Wiseman was also accurate in his work and it made fielding so close much more comfortable.

With the summer of cricket having only started the Otago quartet, which includes first Test century-maker Matt Horne, still have plenty of time to make an even greater contribution to New Zealand's efforts.