Chris Martin, at the age of 38, has called stumps on an underrated two decades of service for New Zealand cricket.
The fact that he shares the same name as the world famous lead singer of the moody pop group: Coldplay, is emblematic of a career spent at the coal face of seam bowling, in the shadows of those more glamorous, and of his ability in excelling when operating under the radar of most commentators.
In the thirteen years between his first and seventy first Test, Chris Martin’s 233 wickets are enough to make him the fifteenth most successful bowler in Test cricket during this period. Though he sits beneath the Warnes and Steyns on this list, he also rises above some noticeable bowlers: Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Chaminda Vaas and Jason Gillespie, to name but a few. A bowling average of 33.81 with a strike-rate of 60.1 may lead one to think of a career marked largely by middling stats and mediocrity, but to do so would be an injustice.
Chris Martin, due to the absolute tragedy that saw Shane Bond’s explosive talent inserted into a body that could not stand the rigours of Test cricket, was forced to become New Zealand’s premier quick bowler throughout the vast majority of his career. This was a role that did not come naturally to Martin. His supreme fitness and reliance on accuracy, with a niggling line that ducked into the right handers and away from the left at brisk pace, allowed him to bowl long spells in all weathers: he would have been the perfect new ball foil to a genuine strike bowler. However, he was not afforded this fortune: he had to lead the attack, and despite his lack of genuine speed or dramatic late swing, Martin had several successes to revel in.
Most of which seemed to occur when playing the South Africans. 55 wickets from fourteen games at an average of 26.72 display the skill he definitely possessed. Alongside this, he had a fantastic record against two of the grittiest, toughest characters in World cricket: dismissing Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis eight and six times respectively; that Jacques Kallis, cricket’s ultimate run grinder only averaged 14 when facing Martin is a feat the Kiwi can be very proud of.
His Test best figures of 11-180 came against South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland 2004. After a promising start to his Test career, Martin’s form had dissipated and he was dropped from the Test team for two years. Eleven wickets in a match-winning, comeback match against the might of Graeme Smith, Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis is a staggering achievement. It is worth bearing in mind that one of Chris Martins’ chief fast bowling contemporaries, Brett Lee, never managed to take a Test match ten wicket haul; Lee did take ten five wicket hauls, but perhaps unexpectedly, this is the same number as Chris Martin took in five Tests fewer than Lee. Though he was no express-paced strike bowler, Chris Martin made up for this through his guile and perseverance.
Lithe, long-limbed and punctuated with a bunny hop before delivering the ball, Chris Martin’s bowling action was well-oiled and consistent throughout his career. A few paces may have disappeared towards the end, but the mechanics remained roughly the same at 38 as they had at 25. What got Martin his wickets was his nous (a brilliant example of this here, where in four balls, he dismisses Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB De Villiers): the subtle leg-cutters that combatted a natural inclination to angle the ball from off-to-leg; slight manipulations of length; the oft-chastised wide ball coming across the left handed batsman, inviting the flashing blade as Christmas does tired mothers to video game stores and M & S.
The exemplary fitness levels he maintained into his late-thirties served as a beacon to those he played with. Indeed, the influence his bowling had on this young generation of quicks that New Zealand are garnering is beyond measure. Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan and most players in the Plunkett Shield have not had a harsh word to say to the grand trier of New Zealand cricket. Everything Chis Martin achieved he deserved, there remains nothing more than to say alla salute, raise a drink, and watch a compilation of his incomparably awful batting.
This article was first published on The Sideline Agenda website (http://thesidelineagenda.com/).
Original location of the article: http://thesidelineagenda.com/2013/07/03/chris-martin-retires-tribute/.