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“Dude, you're telling me this guy couldn't bat? He had a 4.01 average! Even Ty Cobb only had a .337!”
Mark Andrew Robinson was an English cricketer who would prefer it if he was known for his medium pace right-hand bowling. Unfortunately, his modest achievements as a bowler were completely overshadowed by his colossal achievements as a a bad batsman. He finished his career with a 4.01 batting average that would have been much worse were it not for a large number of not outs - his most successful innings were often the ones when he walked out to the middle, watched his team-mate bat, applauded the occasional good shot, and never had to raise his own bat in anger.
Mark Robinson was born in 1966 in Hull, Yorkshire, where he quickly acquired a nickname that was to haunt him for his whole career. There are varying reports as to how he came by the nickname - some say he was not actually born, but created in Zimbabwe, where a local shaman cast some weird curse on an Australian wicket, causing it to come to life; others attribute it to an unusually well-developed third leg; and yet others boringly attribute it to his being utterly useless at batting from a very early age. Whatever it was, the name "walking wicket" stuck fast, and was never far away through his subsequent career.
He began his career at Northamptonshire in 1987, where he had significant success as a bowler. In his first season, his nagging slow medium pace bowling had claimed the wickets of 46 batsmen - largely by driving them to want to escape from field due to boredom caused by waiting for his deliveries to reach their bats. However, his good bowling performance was completely overshadowed by his undimmed noobishness at batting, as he recorded only 37 runs in 17 innings. Even worse, it seems he personally scored just 7 of those runs - the other 30 were scored by his teammates in disguise, in a desperate attempt to make him look slightly less useless.
Because everyone in Northamptonshire was laughing at his incompetence with a bat, he sought solace in New Zealand, where he was able to truly refine the art of poor batsmanship, scoring just 17 runs in 23 innings, forcing the New Zealanders to kick him back to England. Chastened by this experience, he started trying to avoid batting as often as possible - often feigning injuries or, when that didn't work, just fleeing from the pitch crying like a baby. He ended up with more score-free innings this way, but actually recorded fewer ducks this way, because at least he wasn't actually dismissed.
World Record and Retirement
Robinson skilfully managed to avoid hitting any balls at all for several months, unless it was to chip it obligingly to a fielder for an easy catch. He did manage to record a couple of not outs during this period, so his batting average somehow remained at 0.50. This achievement stunned the whole cricketing world and made him the most recognizable batsman of the year in England, easily eclipsing those who had just boringly scored loads of runs.
However, this unbridled ineptitude couldn't last, and in a saddening development for lovers of abject hopelessness everywhere, Robbo's batting did improve slightly toward the tail end of his career. Rumours about that he was forced by his coach to use a steel bat, and that bowlers were provided with a magnetic ball in order to ensure the two met occasionally. This does seem somewhat unlikely.
Mark Robinson finally retired in 2005, stating that he was ""fed up with getting out all the bloody time".
Mark Andrew Robinson: A vocal journal of his record season
Robinson began working with a sports psychologist named Crispin Packet in an attempt to improve his batting performance. The psychologist suggested he wear a microphone while batting, so that he could articulate his thoughts, thus helping the shrink analyse his mindset, and thus suggest a solution. He decided to give this a try in the 1990 season, which of course would be his record-breaking year. The tapes were never analysed by his psychologist, due to a breakdown in their professional relationship, but the tapes have recently been released under the "giving nosy buggers something to read" act of 2006, and we now transcribe the highlights below:
1st innings; 1 not out
- Right, here we go. All that work with Crispin has got to bear fruit this season. I'm absolutely focussed on what he told me - I've envisioned success a thousand times, I've imagined being the bat so much I've given myself splinters... This will be the year I show everyone what I'm really capable of. I'm all set, in comes the bowler, he's got a bit of a canter on, looks like it's going to be a fast one, but I have confidence; I can get after this!
Yes! I got a run! Oh yes, this is going to be my year, I can feel it! Never mind that it came off the edge of the bat, or that it really should have been caught by the guy at slip if he hadn't been picking his nose, it's down in the record books as a run, and I'm sure there are plenty more where that came from, what can stop me? I wonder what the record is for most runs in a season?
Bollocks, the other guy's gone and got himself out - end of innings. Still, I have one run and I wasn't out, that's all positive. From tiny acorns, mighty oak trees grow, and the oak tree of my batting is going to be glorious!
2nd innings; 0 not out
- Right, we're in a little trouble here, and still need quite a few runs to make a game of it. But never fear, Mark Robinson is here! Dun dun dunnn! I've been preparing for this moment all winter! I'm ready to answer the call, to stand up and be counted, to salvage the unsalvageable situation, to finally be the hero! It's a new over, so the other guy's facing the bowling, but my zen calm is unfazeable; as soon as it's my go, I shall not be found wanting!
Bollocks, he's out again. Clot. And I was all ready to score my first century too. Honestly, perhaps I'll have to give him some batting lessons! Still, keeping to the positives, no-one's been able to get me out yet this season, I am indomitable!
3rd innings; 1 run out
- I am in the groove this time. Oh yes, here I come, my trusty willow in hand, and I'm facing the bowling, so plenty of chance to show off my new approach. This is the moment, this is when I take a bowling attack to pieces by sheer force of personality. Are you watching, Brian Lara?
OMG! What a shot! Did you see that everyone? It's gone miles! Now what? Oh yes, run! Run, run, run! Yes! Safe! Oh my god! It nearly got to the boundary! I could even have picked up two if I hadn't been admiring the shot for so long. Ah! What a fantastic feeling! That really was a fantastic shot, though I don't know if it was a drive, cut or pull... but it was good and straight and I liked it!
- Bollocks, he's out. No, wait, I'm out? Fuck my luck! That prick up at the other end should never have called me through for that run - I was watching that blonde girl's tits as she wandered across the stand, he could see I was distracted! Honestly, if I weren't feeling so positive this season, I'd think my team-mates were trying to stop me scoring any runs! Maybe they realise that when my new, confident approach bears fruit, their positions in the batting order will be under threat?
4th innings; 0 bowled
- I've decided I've been talking too much during innings so far, so I'm going to concentrate on unleashing the awesome potential of my batting. Watch and learn, folks...
- Bollocks, perhaps I shouldn't have tried to launch the first ball over the stand. I may have mis-timed that one a little. Or just completely missed it.
5th innings; 0 not out
- OK, I've been out twice running now, that's not the way to showcase my skills. Target for this innings is: don't get out.
- Bollocks, the useless git at the other end - yeah, you heard me - went and got himself out before I got a chance. Target for next innings: have a bat and don't get out.
6th innings; 0 not out
- Right, here goes... Oh yeah! Bring it on! I get a bat... OK crowd, attention to the middle, this is where you get value for your money.
Oh yes, that was sweet! I connected properly, the ball went the way I intended, there wasn't a fielder there... Just a few more steps and I complete a whole, entire run! And I'm safe! That's the start or something... Hang on...
- Bollocks, I don't believe it! My partner was watching a blonde girl's tits as she wandered across the stand, and was so distracted he didn't run! So he's run out, and that means my run doesn't count! Seriously, is it too much to ask for a little professionalism here?
7th innings; 0 not out
- Is there actually a point to this? Why am I even bothering to walk to the crease? The numpty at the other end is only going to get out before I get a chance to entertain the crowd with my strokeplay. Might as well end the innings now and save me a walk.
- Bollocks, exactly as predicted, donkey boy goes and spoons an easy catch to the - yeah, you heard me, I called you donkey boy, what are you gonna do about it, huh? I'll knock your head off with this bat, pal. No, I won't fucking miss! Bastard.
8th innings; 0 not out
- I've been waiting all afternoon for this. After an amicable discussion with my batting partner last week after I was let out of hospital, he's promised to bat more sensibly to give me a chance of getting a go. Brilliant! It's been a long old day, but it'll all be worth it when I rattle off a quick-fire fifty...
- Bollocks, what do you mean, bad light? I wanna bat! I've been waiting all day for my go, and now you say the match is drawn because there's a few tiny little thunderclouds? The light's not that bad - I can still see you, umpire. What? I'm talking to the stumps? Fuck it.
9th innings; 0 not out
- Didn't bother. What's the point?
10th innings; 0 LBW
- Straight in to face the bowling, this time I'll show them that I can actually bat. Show them all! Here we go - nice little sighter first one up, I'll take no chances and stop that hitting my wicket with my legs. No problems
- Bollocks! What? How am I out!? How?! Look, my wicket is intact! LBW!? What the fuck? ... Oh man, I forgot that rule applies when I'm batting as well as when I'm bowling at people. "Facepalm."
11th innings; 0 caught
- Well... The coach is right... I shouldn't play defensively if I want to record a big score... So... Here comes the first delivery... WATCH THIS! AARGH!
- I touched it! That was inches away from going over the stands...
- Bollocks! Oh, fucking wicket-keeper got it... Another duck... Damn!
12th innings; 0 hit wicket
This day remains empty in the journal as no speech was recorded. Instead, there was just a quiet sobbing as he just walked on to the pitch, dislodged the bails from his own wicket using his hand, and then walked off - much to the confusion of everybody in the stadium.
13th innings; 0 not out
- So here I am, standing at the non-striker's end while that show-off up the other end knocks sixes all over the park. Yes, yes, very entertaining and all that, but what's it doing for my confidence? Yes, yes, very good, well done, another one. You bastard.
14th innings; 0 not out
- I'm really getting frustrated about having so many noughts in my statistics. It's sooo embarrassing. My teammates have started to draw zeroes on my locker... And there we go, another of them gets out trying to keep me from ever getting near a ball. Whoopee shit.
15th innings; 0 bowled
- My friends have come to watch me in this match... I can't go for a duck! Where are they sitting... Oh, there they are! I see them! Hey guys, watch thi...
- Bollocks! Is he actually allowed to bowl while I'm waving? Bastard!
Final innings of season; 1 not out
- Yes! I actually got a single! And my team mate is now fucking run out while trying to go for the second run we needed to win by a wicket! We could get it but I would more likely get out as I'm too excited to concentrate on running straight. We lost by one run, but at least I'm not out! I'm sure this bodes well for next season!
- ↑ For comparison, the world record is held by Brian Lara, with 501 runs in one innings
- ↑ Cricket terminology for getting dismissed for no runs in an innings; if you have to ask why, you may never understand
- ↑ Never use business jargon and talk to Mark Robinson about getting his ducks in a row - he tends to take offence