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Rigga: A True Test Player

NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 24:  Former New Zealand cricketer Mark Richardson wins a celebrity race ahead of Wellington Super 12 players Conrad Smith, left and Ma'a Nonu during the break in innings of the FICA World XI  against New Zealand in the one day cricket match at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, January 24, 2005. The match was the second in a series to raise money for tsunami relief in Asia.  (Photo by Ross Setford/Getty Images)
Nikhil PuriContributor IMarch 21, 2009

You gotta love Rigga. He's the quintessentially dogged, determined test cricketer, with an eccentric side to himself off the field. Or on it, as you notice in the picture above.

He set the standards high for New Zealand's openers with a test average of 45, and I find it appropriate to write about him in light of New Zealand's problems with the opening position.

Mark Richardson started off as a left-arm orthodox spinner for Otago batting at number 10. Once admitting that his repertoire of strokes only included three, including the front-foot defense, he was limited in his flashiness but effective in his results.

His ranks as the second highest average in test cricket for New Zealand for those that have played more than 20 tests, just a shade under Martin Crowe, and if it hadn't been for his relative slump in his final series against Australia, he would have ended up at the top of that list.

Mark Richardson is a legend when it comes to occupying the crease. He occupied the crease for an average of 194 balls per test, which beats all New Zealand batsmen in the history of test cricket. Yes, his strike rate was not like Sehwag's, but then again with people like Cairns, McMillan, and Astle in the side who were the aggressors, he didn't need to be aggressive.

On the contrary, his role was to bat through the innings. And so he did, in one of his most famous performances against England at Lords in 2004, when he scored 93 and 101 to join the famous list of century makers at the home of cricket.

Rigga was also a character, often challenging the slowest member of the opposition team to a race at the end of a match. His last act as a Black Cap came in the race against Darren Lehmann at the end of the test series in Australia in 2004. The race, which had obstacles such as having to run over a beer keg as a hurdle, was won by Richardson and the money collected was donated to charity.

As a commentator, Rigga has proven to be a very good one, with strong opinions about the New Zealand team's performance. He has been a harsh critic of New Zealand not choosing the correct lineup in the current test series against India, and maintains that New Zealand must pick the best 11 side, and then order themselves.

Test cricketers like Mark Richardson must be valued, because although their style of batting doesn't necessarily bring the crowds in like a Yuvraj Singh, they make the most of their limited ability and add more value to their team than a flashy strokemaker would.

A look at his celebration after scoring that test hundred at Lord's tells you something: hard work and perseverance pays off, and within that hard, stone-walled batsman, there is the inner determination of the soul that wins over when one's goal is reached.

Rigga set standards for not only the opening position for NZ, but also for hard work, determination and the will to succeed. The crowd's jubilation in that one match I will never forget. It felt as if the unsung hero had arrived, and as a cricket-loving public, we must salute him.

Cheers, Rigga.

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