Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Zealand's Wisden Cricketers of the Year - the firsts continue

Glenn Turner on the attack at Worcestershire
Part 2/3:

From the mid-1950s through the 1970s those honoured with the opportunity to wear New Zealand’s iconic black cap, emblazoned with the silver fern, continued the progress of the trailblazers of the New Zealand game. It was a period of peaks and troughs – more ups than downs when context is applied. There were undoubted struggles but looking back through rose-tinted glasses it was an era of international development nonetheless. At times, such as on the 1971-2 Windies tour New Zealand played largely for the draw because of relative strength of their batting when compared to often sparse bowling stocks, but that was preferable to series defeats suffered at the hands of England both home and away in 1962-3 and 1965 respectively.

New Zealand was the lowest ranked test nation throughout though there was no Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe or Bangladesh to supplement results. Yet over a quarter of a century they managed to win tests, and a series for the first time. The Kiwis had their first truly professional cricketer in the mercurial Glenn Turner, who regardless of his struggles with the game’s administration at home did wonders to lift New Zealand’s profile on the world stage, most notably in England. Whilst some of the results weren’t as strong as we were to see through the 1980s when New Zealand had, what is arguably, its most competitive side in a period when test cricket  was at a peak, this group of cricketers continued to build a base that enabled Hadlee, Crowe, Cairns et al. to flourish in the decades that followed.

More importantly a generation grew up realising New Zealand could compete and were no longer the perennial whipping boys of the cricketing world - with a little luck on their side the 1973 tourists would have come away from the England tour with an elusive test victory, or two. The introduction of ODIs and the advent of the Cricket World Cup further allowed New Zealand to show their wares on a true international stage.

New Zealand’s test firsts:
  • March 1956 - test victory number one against the West Indies in Auckland – it had taken 45 tests over 26 years
  • January 1962 - first test win overseas against South Africa in Port Elizabeth
  • February 1968 - maiden win against India in Christchurch
  • October 1969 - Pakistan defeated for the first time in Lahore
  • October 1969 – first series victory; versus Pakistan (1-0)
  • March 1974 – Australia overcome in Christchurch – the big brother was finally subdued, it only for a moment
  • February 1976 – first victory by an innings, versus India in Wellington
  • February 1978 – first win against the might of England at the Basin reserve, Wellington. It had been 48 years and 48 tests of trying…
  • New Zealand also played in cricket’s fifth ODI in February 1973 – a first up victory against Pakistan, followed by victories against the other sub-continent sides (India and Sri Lanka) before the end of the decade

John R Reid – 1959 Wisden
Batting – Tests: 58, Innings: 108, Not outs: 5, Runs: 3428, High score: 142, Average: 33.28, 100s: 6, 50s: 22
Bowling – Balls: 7725, Runs: 2835, Wickets: 85, Best bowling: 6/60, Average: 33.35, Economy: 2.20, Strike rate: 90.8, 5 wickets (innings): 1, 10 wickets (match): 0

It is an indication of the impression John Reid made during his 16-year test cricket career that when all-time New Zealand teams are chosen, he is invariably one of the first picked. When Reid retired from test cricket in 1965, having set a world record by playing 58 consecutive tests, he was his country’s captain, best batsman, and a multi-purpose bowler (he’d begun his career as an opening bowler and later turned to brisk off-spin). He could field dynamically anywhere and was once chosen as a wicketkeeper for a test. He was a one-man cricket team.
          Joseph Romanos - An extract from Hutt City Sports Awards Brochure (2011)

The 1958 tour to England was not one of New Zealand’s early success stories, but as captain John Richard Reid lead his side with aplomb. In a series dominated 4-0 by a rampant England, Reid showed his weakened side the way forward. With the inevitable loss of early wickets much of the responsibility fell on the burly shoulders of the New Zealand skipper – he was regularly met with situations where he was required to rescue his team from positions of imminent defeat. That New Zealand was often in dire straits when he strode to the crease meant Reid was often unable to play with the confidence and flair he possessed.

For all that, Reid saw little point in the cautious approach and attempted to take the long handle to the opposition attack. In 35 tour matches, Reid played in all but three first class fixtures. He led his contemporaries with in excess of 1400 runs at a shade under 40 – a strong return when some 29 days were lost due to the sparkling (wet) English summer weather.

A hard-hitting batsmen, aggressive medium-fast bowler (who added quick off-breaks to his repertoire as his career progressed) and athletic fieldsman, Reid also kept in one test match. Had he been born a generation later he would have taken ODI cricket by storm – two and he would have been paid handsomely to display his wares in the IPL. Don Cameron, respected NZ cricketing scribe, noted (in ESPNcricinfo) that “Reid would have been a one-day team on his own”. And the man himself? He joked with Priyanka Bhonsule that "if I was playing today I'd be a millionaire. But I don't like the IPL at all" (Hutt News - 13/04/2010).

Two bouts of rheumatic fever put a stop to a burgeoning rugby career which many believe would have been more prodigious even than his cricket. Like many of New Zealand’s premier players who went before him Reid often stood between New Zealand and defeat. Had he been an Australian or an Englishmen he would have been considered a cricketing deity. He was one of those rare players who could turn a match not only with bat or ball but also with fielding that would rival even the best of the current generation.

Spanning 58 tests and 17 years Reid’s international career was filled with highlights. Reid was just twenty when chosen to tour England in 1949, and though he was largely a player who propped onto the front foot, he developed rapidly throughout the tour. Wisden reported he bowled as quickly as anyone in the English game and Reid showed his tremendous versatility and athleticism when he was selected as the wicketkeeper for the final test of the series.

When New Zealand toured South Africa in 1953-4 Reid became the only cricketer to have scored 1000 runs and taken 50 wickets on a tour to the African nation. However batting against the South African quicks reinforced that he needed to continue to learn to play off the back foot, something he worked hard at in following seasons in adding a powerful hook and cut to an extensive front foot repertoire.

Reid was given the captaincy for the second test of the home series against the Windies in 1956 and in the final test (Reid’s third as captain) he led New Zealand to their maiden test victory. Reid led his country with a powerful 84 in the first innings – the highest of the match. The victory in Auckland had been 26 years and 45 tests in the making and is a fitting accolade for one of the greats of the New Zealand game.

The history making exploits of the Reid led New Zealand sides continued in the 1961-2 series in South Africa. The Kiwis drew the five match series two apiece with what Reid believed was the best side New Zealand had fielded. In the third test at Cape Town Reid led his cohorts to New Zealand’s first test win on foreign shores with an impressive 72 run victory – at the time the series was not given official recognition following South Africa’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth though it was decided retrospectively that they should be recognised as tests. New Zealand then repeated the dose in the fifth test to earn a rare drawn series away from home.  It was Reid’s tour; during the 24 match jaunt he amassed 1915 runs at close to 70, including seven centuries – the most dominant a 68 minute hundred against Orange Free State. In the five tests he comfortably led all New Zealand scorers; daylight finished a distant second – 546 test runs at nigh on 60 was a phenomenal achievement. 

In 246 first class matches Reid compiled over 16,000 runs and took 466 wickets. For a large part of his career he would go from Oamaru club cricket (on a par with the English village game) to leading New Zealand against the game’s premier test nations – could you imagine that happening in Australia or England? Such changes in standard seldom hampered his game, and his attacking prowess was never illustrated more clearly than in a Plunket Shield match for Wellington during the 1962-3 season.  Reid hit a thunderous 296, in 220 minutes, during which he struck 15 sixes – a number that remained a world record until 1995 when Andrew Symonds hit 16 sixes for Gloucestershire against Glamorgan.

When he retired New Zealand had played 86 tests – Reid played in 58 consecutively and captained 34! At the time he held New Zealand test records for the most runs, wickets and catches. In 19 seasons of first class cricket Reid won the Redpath Cup for batting three times and the Windsor Cup (for bowling) once.  In 1962 he was awarded the OBE for services to cricket.

He has remained involved in cricket managing and coaching South Africa’s Northern Transvaal, as a New Zealand selector and then an ICC referee.  As a referee he often courted controversy as he believed modern cricket was moving away from the traditional ideals which set it apart from most other sporting pursuits. His son, Richard, showed the same attacking flair as his father, though not as successfully, in a handful of ODIs for New Zealand.

Dick (Richard) Motz – 1966
Bowling – Tests: 32, Balls: 7034, Runs: 3148, Wickets: 100, Best bowling: 6/63, Average: 31.48, Economy: 2.68, Strike rate: 70.3, 5 wickets (innings): 5, 10 wickets (match): 0

He was a great fast bowler who never knew when to stop. 
          Graham Dowling, former New Zealand captain, to NZPA (via ESPNcricinfo – 27 April 2007).

Named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year on the back of his performances on New Zealand’s 1965 tour (which included India, Pakistan and finally England) Motz topped both bowling aggregates and averages for the tourists. His haul included 54 wickets at an average just on 23, including 11 in the three test series, in an abbreviated England leg – 19 first class matches was a short tour at the time. 11 of the matches were drawn, most on the back of some inclement weather throughout the British summer. An outswing bowler who moved it off the wicket as well, Motz continued to run in like the Energizer bunny rapped on his little drum – he seemed almost incapable of fatigue. Throughout the gruelling three-nation tour, whenever his captain needed someone to take the ball, no matter the situation, Motz would answer the call.

Motz made his first class debut for Canterbury as a 17 year old and was in the reckoning for New Zealand’s tour to England in 1958, though he was left at home to mature and grow as a cricketer before his international ascension three seasons later. In 13 seasons, and 142 matches, of first class cricket the powerfully-built Motz took over 500 wickets at fewer than 23. He was what any number of young men dream of becoming as a cricketer; a fast bowler with an affinity for hitting sixes lower down the order – his only first class century came up in 53 minutes.  Though he only scored a little over 600 test runs at under 12, nearly 14% of his runs came in sixes - on a par with Cairns’ 16% and well in excess of Gayle’s 7%.

On New Zealand’s famous 1961-2 tour to South Africa the debutant Motz was the driving force in a New Zealand bowling attack that helped its country to its first test victory overseas, and drew the series two apiece.  His 81 wickets on the tour included 19 in the five test series and earned the young man glowing plaudits in both countries. After such a bright start Motz would be on the winning side in only two of his next 27 tests.

He was again impressive on the 1965 tour to England, though with little support from the batsmen New Zealand was swept in the three test series. His best test return of 6-63 came two years later as he dismantled the Indian batting to help New Zealand to its maiden test victory against India in the 1967-68 series. Motz nearly bettered that haul with an impressive 6-69 in his final test victory in 1968-9 against a West Indies side that included the batting might of Fredericks, Butcher, Lloyd and Sobers.

Motz was a wholehearted cricketer who gave his all for his country though he only experienced a New Zealand victory on four occasions during his 32 test international career. That said, many cricketers before him never experienced any victory at our great game’s pinnacle – they had to satisfy themselves with first class victories on tour.

In what was largely an unsuccessful tour for Motz, the 1969 tour to England did have one high point – he became the first New Zealand bowler to reach 100 test wickets, bringing up the milestone in his final test at The Oval.

At the conclusion of that series, at the tender age of 29, Motz was forced to retire after it was discovered he had been playing with a displaced vertebra for 18 months. Today he would have been under a knife the instant it happened, though he may have at least continued after rehab. How the life and times of international cricketers have changed – at the time he retired New Zealand couldn’t even afford a travelling physio. How much stronger would his record have been if not for the debilitating injury?

Motz was named the New Zealand Cricket Almanack Player of the Year in 1961 and one of the South African Cricket Annual’s Cricketers of the Year in 1962, before being inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. He has the infamy of being the first bowler banned for running on the pitch at test level in 1968. 

His personal life deteriorated rapidly in his later years before his premature death at the age of 67 but let us remember him for his cricketing exploits not the unfortunate events of those years.

Glenn Turner – 1971
Batting – Tests: 41, Innings: 73, Not outs: 6, Runs: 2991, High score: 259, Average: 44.64, 100s: 7, 50s: 14
Batting – ODIs: 41, Innings: 40, Not outs: 6, Runs: 1598, High score: 171*, Average: 47.00, Strike rate: 68.05, 100s: 3, 50s: 9

I was a perfectionist, and that was probably part of my problem. I didn't believe in playing across the line, whether the cut or the pull. It was all full blade. And generally looking to defend first and never attack. I thought the bowlers were supposed to be better than me [he started first-class cricket at 17]. So by just staying there, I thought I was achieving something. My narrowness of mind cost me then.  
          Glenn Turner (on his early cricket mind set with Sidharth Monga - ESPNcricinfo) - July 3, 2009

As a single event a well-run three would usually have little significance, but when Glenn Maitland Turner eased Warwickshire’s Billy Ibadulla away in the final match of the 1970 County season he set a new Worcestershire record with ten centuries in a season. The irony was that it was Ibadulla who had convinced the then school boy he could succeed in the England game when he was coaching in Otago during the English winter.

Through his first two seasons in the County Championship Turner was steady but slow, however when he returned to Worcestershire in 1970 for a full County season, the quickly maturing young man showed a more attacking focus – Turner attributed the change to a poor home summer against the Australians and figured he had little to lose by more willingly wielding the willow. After just one hundred in the first seven games Turner then proceeded to hit three centuries in consecutive matches, twice. He reached the nine century mark of Cyril Walters with four matches to play - Walters had achieved the feat in 1933 in a season where he hit over 2000 runs at more than 50, achieved an England call-up against the Windies and was named as one of Wisden’s Five. It could have been even better for Turner but for a subsequent 99 when he was run out by the prowling Clive Lloyd at Lancashire. His tenth and final century saw Turner become the highest scorer in the 1970 County Championship and positioned him alongside an elite group of five others to have scored 2,000 runs in a season for Worcestershire.

A right-handed opening batsman, Turner played straight and with a defensive technique few of his peers, before or after, could better. As his career progressed he kept the defensive qualities but widened his attacking repertoire, scoring as quickly as any situation required – he was one of the early proponents of chipping the inner ring in limited overs cricket.

Glenn Turner was a fantastic test cricketer but his biggest impression was not on the international stage – it was the County game that brought out the best in the stoic, and proud, Kiwi. He was arguably New Zealand’s first truly professional cricketer – players had played the game in foreign lands before but for Turner this was his primary source of income. Though money does not always precipitate professionalism, the commitment he brought to all aspects of his game could still shine the light for many modern cricketers. As it did later with Sir Richard Hadlee, learning his trade in the professional ranks of England often saw him at odds with the amateur administrators within New Zealand Cricket who Turner saw as doing the local game an injustice.

Turner made his first class debut for Otago in 1964 as a 17 year old school boy. He was technically correct but severe on anything pitched full, both on the offside and through straight mid-wicket. In a first class career spanning 20 years Turner amassed more than 34,000 runs in 455 matches at a shade under 50. In all he compiled 103 first class centuries – a record that is yet to be bettered by any New Zealand cricketer. His scoring rate was often slow but he seemed to have a granite exterior – nothing got through; his stubbornness was what made him so successful.

By 1967 Warwickshire professional Billy Ibadulla had arranged for an introduction at his home county but at the last minute the club pulled out, having already met their overseas player quota – Turner decided to still travel and the club organised him a number of trials with other counties. Worcestershire were happy to take the punt and after a year’s qualification Turner made the step up in 1968. Though he unsuccessfully started as low as seven in the batting line-up, the gamble to move Turner up to open paid immediate dividends – he finished his first season with his county cap, a maiden county century and 1,000 runs for the season. He progressed handsomely in 1969, his county appearances split with opportunities at international level – Turner made his test debut against the West Indies prior to the start of the English season. As a young man he was still beset with a genuine fear of failure and was more intent on quiet accumulation than any aggressive intent, though he could never be tarnished with not attaching value to his wicket.

After the heroics of his 1970 County season, Turner continued to grow his status as one of the most influential foreign cricketers in the English domestic game. His worth to Worcestershire was never better illustrated than in a 1977 County fixture against Glamorgan - Turner scored 141 not out at Swansea. His side were all out for 169 – Turner contributed 83.4% of his team’s runs!

In the 1982 County Championship Turner struck his 100th century, only the 19th batsman to have achieved the feat, but it wasn’t just any hundred. He raised the record breaking ton before lunch on the first day against Warwickshire – how things had changed from his days of playing little off the square. But he wasn’t finished there. Worcestershire declared more than 45 minutes before the close of the first day’s play with Turner 311 not out – his highest first class score.

Like many before him, Turner began his test career with a duck, against the West Indies at home in the 1968-9 season. However, in the coming years he quickly came to grips with the rigours of the international game. In the following series against the Windies in the Caribbean in 1971-2 Turner hit two double hundreds in the test series – he scored four in total in all matches on tour.

When New Zealand toured England in 1973, Turner became the seventh player to score 1000 runs before May – he amassed 1018 runs in the opening 11 first class matches on tour. It was the first time the feat had been achieved in 35 years. Turner’s efforts sat him in the esteemed company of Bradman, Grace and Hammond though Turner is coupled with Bradman as the only players to achieve the feat as part of a touring side. Since then only Zimbabwean (sorry, Englishman) Graeme Hick has reached the milestone.

Turner scored two hundreds in a first class match on six occasions; the most memorable in New Zealand’s first victory against big brother Australia at Christchurch in 1973-4.  A six year international hiatus through the late 1970s and early 1980s saw New Zealand lose their most stabilising batting force, though team harmony may have improved. Some punters, this hack among them, think that team dynamics, whilst important, can at times be given too much credence in professional sport where the end result is the most critical factor. That break has also led many pundits to put an asterisk besides his impressive test numbers - his return in 1983 lasted only one series against Sri Lanka. For his nearly 3000 test runs, not one came from a lofted shot over the fence – Turner never cleared the boundary for six. Though he captained his country on 10 occasions during the mid-1970s he relinquished the job after another “disagreement” with local administrators.

After retirement as a player Turner continued to make his mark on New Zealand’s summer game. He managed New Zealand (and the ‘A’ side) on two separate occasions, coached Otago and was an outspoken national selector prior to the Wright and Littlejohn era.

Bevan Congdon – 1974
Batting – Tests: 61, Innings: 114, Not outs: 7, Runs: 3448, High score: 176, Average: 32.22, 100s: 7, 50s: 19
Bowling – Balls: 5620, Runs: 2154, Wickets: 59, Best bowling: 5/65, Average: 36.50, Economy: 2.29, Strike rate: 95.2, 5 wickets (innings): 1, 10 wickets (match): 0

I got hit by a John Snow bouncer at one point. I was looking to chip him over the top of third man, and when the ball came back in off the track at me, I tried to swivel and hook it instead of just bailing out and going under. I ended up not doing anything properly, and it hit me in the face. It would have been easier to go off the field, but in those circumstances it would have been hard for the new man coming in to try and make do.
          Bevan Congdon to Nagraj Gollapudi (Wisden Asia Cricket magazine; 1973)

Congdon’s matter-of-fact description of the blow he took early in New Zealand’s second innings run chase against England at Trent Bridge in 1973 gives an insight into the humble assuredness of a man who led New Zealand’s charge back to international respectability. Chasing their first victory against England at test level, New Zealand fell agonisingly short but Congdon was immense. He hit his highest test score of 176 in a New Zealand fourth innings total of 440, falling just 38 runs short of what would have been one of the most remarkable test victories in the history of our great game. That the Kiwis were rolled for 97 in their first dig illustrates the fighting spirit at the business end of the match. Victory in that first test at Trent Bridge would have been a ripe reward for Congdon and his cricketing clan.

Likewise, in the second test at Lord’s on the back of another Congdon ton (175) New Zealand amassed 551 and barring dropped catches had another chance to make history and capture an elusive first win over their English nemesis at the Home of Cricket - the Kiwis would have to wait another decade for that holy grail. When he was awarded Wisden’s highest honour Congdon had become only the third New Zealander to have achieved the 10,000 run mark (combined for runs in New Zealand first class cricket and for his country) alongside previous Wisden recipients Reid and Sutcliffe. Throughout the tour he compiled close to 1100 runs at 60 across the 19 match stretch, including 362 at an average over 70 in the three test series.

A medium pace bowler who moved it both ways off a nagging length, and a technically astute batsman who could expand his game to its fullest extent when the occasion demanded it, Bevan Congdon’s figures don’t tell the full story of the indelible mark he left on New Zealand cricket. Congdon made his first class debut at 22 and in a career spanning 19 years and 241 matches he played for New Zealand’s four (of six) most southerly provinces amassing 13,000 runs and 200 wickets. It took another four years until he won a place in the New Zealand side, debuting in the first test against Pakistan in 1964-5.

An accomplished yet seldom outstanding cricketer in his early years, much of his development into a true international batsman in the early 1970s was, in his own words, due in no small part to the time he spent in the middle with the master Turner. The turning point for Congdon came in New Zealand’s first tour to the Caribbean in 1971-2. In a five test series drawn 0-0, Congdon took over as captain when Dowling returned home injured. Henry Blofeld (in Wisden) asserted that “his 126 in the Third Test was the most commanding innings by a New Zealander on the tour” – high praise in a side that included New Zealand greats Turner, Howarth and Taylor. In the 13 match tour Congdon compiled a touch under 1000 runs at 90, including 531 in the five Tests at 88.50.

Though never a master tactician, Congdon continued to captain his country in 17 of his 61 tests including to their first victory against Australia at Christchurch in 1973-4 when Glenn Turner was so instrumental in getting his side across the line. Congdon was also a big part of many other firsts for New Zealand cricket - he played in the first series win (against Pakistan in 1969/70) and then a precious test victory against England in 1977-8 – New Zealand’s first. He also played in New Zealand’s first ODI – a victory against Pakistan. He only had the opportunity to play in 11 ODIs but an average of 56 struck at over 70 showed Congdon would have excelled had he played a decade later. Following his retirement from all cricket in 1978 he was awarded an OBE for services to the game.

I’ll post the third piece in the next week, detailing the final four ‘modern’ New Zealand Wisden Cricketers of the Year.

I’d love to hear your recollections of these great players, and some of the stories passed down through generations – post a comment below or send me a tweet @aotearoaxi. If my research is wrong, let me know – this blog is primarily for me to develop a stronger understanding of where New Zealand cricket has come from, and the players who have shaped our great game. If you enjoyed it, sign up for email alerts for future pieces from a cricketing Buddha.

Part 1: New Zealand's WISDEN Cricketers of the Year - the trailblazers


  1. Loved reading your post. A really insightful research on NZ cricket.
    I would love to read the stories of other greats like Hadlee and Crowe in your following posts.


    1. Very kind. Hadlee, Coney, Crowe and Cairns are up in the final piece next week. They all spent time in county cricket - is there something in that?

  2. This is essential cricket education. I have fallen a week behind, but look forward to catching up with part 3 on my way to Lord's on Friday.
    On the subject of Kiwis in county cricket, it is possible that Andre Adams could be a WCY, if he and Notts enjoy a successful season. Did something go wrong with his international career, or is county cricket his 'level'? (I'll repeat the question to you on twitter).


    1. Thanks Chris - it's education for me too! Given the genius that is Sir Richard, I ended up giving him a place on his own and will then follow up with the final 3 and a couple of sneaky picks who have ties to NZ.

      Andre Adams as a Wisden COY 2013 for the 150th edition? I hope so. He has taken 60 wickets in both previous seasons and is on track for at least that this year, and he's missed a game through injury. The 2013 COY will be interesting given the England (international) options are really only Finn and Patel from the current crop, although Bairstow could now theoretically have a screamer and make it - Patel seems as likely as, weel, he doesn't seem likely at all. It would be sad if the criteria remained as is and no English internationals made the 150th edition.

      Adams at international level - he was treated poorly, I imagine largely because of a perceived attitude, though that is simply his nature. He was given more of a crack in the shorter forms when he prefers the longer stuff. However, it could be said that his level is first class and he would have been just a run of the mill international - the pity is that we will never know.

      I will try to crank out the final piece and load by the end of the weekend.

  3. I read the first part of this series of posts some minutes ago and I loved it, and that is why I am here because I wanted to read the second part, it's very interesting! ;)


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