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Bruce Martin shouldn’t be playing international cricket

October 16, 2013

12 wickets at 53.83 are Bruce Martin’s statistics after five test matches. Those stats are worse than legendary New Zealand spinners like Jeetan Patel, Mike Hart and Paul Wiseman who all had the decency to average in the low 40’s. Martin’s returns are meagre enough  to question his place in the side without further analysis but it gets even worse when you dig a bit deeper into the dismissals he has been credited with.

Using the assistance of the excellent commentary team here are all 12 wickets. See if you can note any common themes.

Matt Prior c Williamson b Martin back to cut and chips it to point and another poor stroke sees another wicket fall. Prior rocked back to try and play aggressively again from just outside off stump, back of a length, but got it off a top edge straight to the fielder at point who couldn’t drop it. A first Test wicket for Martin but a bit of a gift.

Ian Trott c Boult b Martin swept at, straight up in the air and taken at short long leg, a good catch running in by Boult diving forward. Trott was trying to play towards the vacant area at deep square leg but top edged a ball that was probably too full to sweep.

Stuart Broad c Brownlie b Martin and Broad promptly pulls directly to the man on the rope that is a shocker. Half-tracker pulled like catching practise to the deep fielder. Could have slogged it anywhere but found the fielder with perfection, a sorry tale for England this.

Jimmy Anderson c Wagner b Martin down the wicket, a huge swing and an outside edge to point and that completes a miserable effort from England. Perhaps understandably, Anderson trying to go after a few runs but got done by a little slider that totally threw him of course, he swung himself off his feet and produced an easy catch.

Steve Finn lbw b Martin Finn slogs sweep and misses and is trapped in front what a poor way to go after such resolute defence, a great effort as nightwatchman. Just another straight ball but Finn decided to try and whack it over the leg side, a very unusual choice given we’re just back after tea, missed completely, he was in front of middle.

Neil Compton c Taylor b Martin and got him, Compton driving away from his body and slip takes it comfortably into his midriff! Martin breaks a 210-run stand with a full ball, little bit of spin and perhaps a tired shot from the batsman, he didn’t really get to the pitch – after another impressive innings, Compton departs.

Ian Bell c Fulton b Martin Bell on the charge, spotting a red rag somewhere in the ground, but it’s Ahmedebad all over again and the attempted loft over the bowler’s head swirls high out somewhere behind cover and mid-off, where Fulton makes good ground before taking an excellent catch! For Pragyan Ohja, read Bruce Martin, as Bell loses his head and his wicket in the same moment.

Joe Root c †Watling b Martin tossed up, full and tempting and Martin gets another, Root nicking off! That was a pretty ugly shot, cross-batted and attempting to hitting the cover off a wide delivery that just spun and bounced a little, scraped the edge on its way through and Watling takes the catch throws the ball into the air as McCullum feels another bead of sweat evaporate from his brow.

Kevin Pietersen c Fulton b Martin oh, gone, Martin lands a knockout punch on KP! Or rather, Pietersen knocks himself out, dismissed in similar fashion to Bell, trying to stamp his authority on the situation and lofting the ball high towards mid-off, Fulton under it again. McCullum kept the field up, tempting the batsman to go over the top but Pietersen was slightly done in the flight and didn’t get anywhere near the pitch.

Neil Compton c Southee b Martin 81.4 kph, floated up outside off and Compton comes down the track, tries to go over the in-field and gets a wild outside edge that loops to point. That’s what pressure does. Compton comes down the wicket to try and snap this run of dot balls but in trying a lofted off-drive has perished. Good running catch from Southee going to his right and diving forward 

Anamul Haque c Anderson b Martin Martin has his first wicket of the Test with a poor ball, long hop outside off and Anamul went back and reached for it and sliced a dolly to Anderson at cover.

Tamim Iqbal c Williamson b Martin Tamim goes to another horrendous delivery from Martin, full but very wide outside off, he groped outside off to try and give it a smack and instead it tamely lobbed off the toe to cover.

So a few common themes:

  • 11 dismissals via fielder catches with only two in catching positions (keeper and slips), though you might argue the man on the rope is a catching position when Martin is bowling. Just one unassisted dismissal.
  • 11 dismissals that has the commentary making reference to a poor shot or poor option or a gift to Martin from the batsman.
  • 3 dismissals that the commentary makes reference to how terrible the delivery was.

Without his good fortune Bruce Martin very well could have one wicket at 646 which would easily place him at the front of the list entitled “Worst career bowling average” (note: he hasn’t actually bowled enough deliveries to qualify but this is my blog and my rules).

Sure it is a wee bit misleading to suggest that 92% of Martin’s wickets were ill gotten gains without providing any sort of reference point to what sort of percentage might be reasonable. So how about we look at Kane Williamson who has taken 13 wickets at 26 in the same time frame (bearing in mind Martin missed a test in England):

  • 12 dismissals via a fielder but with six in catching positions. Also just one unassisted dismissal.
  • 6 dismissals that the commentary makes reference to a poor shot from the batsman.
  • 0 dismissals that make reference to how terrible the delivery was.
  • The quality of batsman dismissed is about the equivalent of Martin’s dismissals.

This isn’t an exact science but a rough look suggests that not only are Williamson’s raw stats significantly better the type of dismissals reflect a higher quality of bowling as well. When you are being unfavourably compared to a part time bowler you might have a wee bit of an issue.

A further point you don’t get from the above commentary is that 9 of Martin’s wickets come in the opponent’s first innings which traditionally isn’t the time you need a spinner taking wickets, it is nice but the fourth innings chase is money time and Martin was a big factor in costing us the series win against England with his impotent efforts on day five of the third test.

Williamson on the other hand has 11 of his wickets in the opposing team’s second innings including four against England that almost made up for Bruce Martin’s previously discussed impotence.

Martin attracted some nice reviews following his debut in Dunedin but as I noted at the time they were five very misleading wickets and since this time Martin has made every stop a further example of why he is out of his depth. I might be more forgiving of that dead weight if it wasn’t for the fact he is 33 and isn’t likely to improve his game any further.

I read somewhere that Martin’s two Bangladesh wickets might give him a reprieve for the second test. If someone’s place can be retained by virtue of deliveries described as poor and horrendous then I really don’t know what to say about how far away we are from making any breakthroughs in the area of digging beneath traditional statistics but it would certainly feel a long way away, maybe about the distance between a good length and the pitch of a Bruce Martin wicket taking delivery.


I deliberately tucked this at the bottom of the article with no fan fare or promotion least I fall into the media trap of writing about Sonny Bill Williams just to get some page clicks and besides most people are SBDubbed out anyway. I am not going to comment extensively but I think there are two things you should remember next time someone in the media or in the lunchroom decides to get on their high horse over Sonny Bill.

Number one – Brad Thorn played league, played union, played league, played union, played in Japan, Europe and for multiple Super Rugby franchises. He never once got criticised for turning his back on anyone and yet his hop scotching is pretty similar to what SBW gets panned for. So in reality SBW isn’t being slammed for what sport he is or isn’t playing for. He is getting slammed because he is SBW and people perceive he has character issues.

Number two – Considering he is being slammed for perceived failings of character I find it very interesting that the only former teammates, coaches or team management that have ever spoken poorly of his character are related to the Bulldogs walk out and people that think all the facts have been revealed about that are dreaming. I would take the word of former players, coaches and management that actually know SBW long before I take the word of the Mark Reasons and Duncan Johnstones of the world. And the word from the players, coaches and management express a lot of respect and in some instances a lot of love for SBW.

That is all. I just want it kept in mind.


From → Cricket, General

  1. Great stuff on Martin.
    I had thought prior to his debut that he would be a poor mans Vettori, therefore at least matching the performances of the luminaries you mentioned (Wiseman, Patel etc). However he seems to lack two things:
    – He doesnt turn the ball, which is a problem! However neither does Vettori
    – He doesnt vary his pace and flight with subtle variations. Something Vettori is a master of and i thought Martin would be better at.
    Id expect 1-2 more Tests for him on the subcontinent, then he will be dropped for the NZ summer when we go back to a 1 spinner attack (Sodhi, Vettori or whoever) with back up from Williamson.

    • I would rather they didn’t wait to drop Martin. I think we need Wagner in the side now as the three pace bowlers give us a better opportunity to take 20 wickets. I liked what I saw from Sodhi. He bowled some nice lines and didn’t resort, or not too frequently, to the off stump/outside off stump line that some legspinners do when they are scared of being attacked. I would much rather persevere with him in a one spinner attack than Martin.

  2. Thankfully Mike Hesson reads the blog and has dropped Martin for Wagner. I am here to make a difference.

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