Forget the Ashes build-up for a minute, let’s take time out to reflect on the career of one of the last of cricket’s dying species – “The Rabbit”.
When Chris Martin announced his retirement to the press last week it brought great sadness. Although it had hardly been unexpected after he was dropped during his side’s Test series in January, I wasn’t yet ready to comprehend a cricketing world without him.
Martin had not been an automatic choice for the Blackcaps in past year with the emergence of a younger crop of fast bowlers in the side. The likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell have all represented a new era in New Zealand cricket – this meant the veteran experience of Martin was no longer a necessary selection.
Martin is a guy who despite being a fine seam bowler in his own right, will forever been remembered as one of the last true number elevens in the modern game.
“Rabbit” – A particularly incompetent batsman, who is invariably a specialist bowler. While most lower order batsmen would be expected to occasionally score some useful runs, a rabbit is expected to be dismissed cheaply almost every time. Another term, ferret, refers to a batsman even worse than a rabbit (named as such because, in the wild, “a ferret goes in after a rabbit.”)
By that definition, I should probably refer to Martin as a ferret, but I’ll be kind and stick with rabbit or perhaps even bunny instead.
Martin was a true bunny, a man known throughout the cricketing world as a cult hero, a good steady opening bowler but a hopeless batsman. His bowling should not be underestimated though. Among his compatriots only Sir Richard Hadlee (431) and Daniel Vettori (360) have claimed more Test wickets than his 233 and only Vettori of the current New Zealand players has outlasted him in the side.
The now 38-year-old made his Test debut in November 2000 and went on to play a further 70 Tests over a 13-year-period – before playing his final match in January, fittingly against South Africa, a side he made his debut against and in truth a side he had his most success against – Indeed 55 of his Test victims were against the Proteas at a healthy average of 26.72.
In all Martin’s bowling stats are respectable in the modern day and age of flat wickets and heavy bats. He claimed 233 Test victims at 33.81 and took ten five-wicket hauls.
But of course, for the man who shares his name with a certain Coldplay front man, it was always his lack of ability with the bat that attracted most interest among cricket fans worldwide.
Only Courtney Walsh (43) made more ducks in Test cricket than Martin’s 36. While he holds the record for the most pairs in Test matches with seven – three ahead of his nearest challenger.
He didn’t reach 100 Tests runs until his 60th match and finished his 71 match-career with just 123 runs at the lowly average of 2.36.
Martin was the last of Test cricket’s really bunnies. In a new age of ODI and T20 cricket, bowlers are now expected to contribute more with the bat as one dimensional cricketers are being phased out of the game. The days of specialist bowlers such as Walsh, Phil Tufnell and Alan Mullally are now a thing of the past – the retirement of Martin – looks like marking an end to the era of “The Rabbit.”
With a heavy heart it’s time to say farewell Chris, thanks for the memories, the fun and of course that video.