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A Celebration of Mediocrity

A group of 40-something men, cricket fans all, with not a test match, let alone a first-class match, between them deemed themselves worthy of becoming national selectors.

Before we start, our disclosure statement, sad and pathetic as it may be. It began with an off-hand remark, the type that starts ludicrous bets and dares. What transpired was an e-mail triffid, wildly out of control, with opinionated tentacles coursing into half a dozen Inboxes with indecent rapidity. 

And at the core of this frenzy was, quite simply, mediocrity. A group of 40-something men, cricket fans all, with not a test match, let alone a first-class match, between them deemed themselves worthy of becoming national selectors. It was the heady triumph of the Auckland test and the fight back, albeit brief, in Wellington, coupled with unwarranted bravado and self-acclaimed wisdom (sic), that spurred us on to ‘mock’ those who had not been up to scratch. 

Who, we posed, would make up the ‘Least likely to win a test’ team of New Zealand test cricketers in the past 25 years? Cynics or, heaven forbid, the PC brigade (such as the delusional who espouse that the under 10s must not win or lose – simply “participate and smile a lot”) might call this destructive. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. We love these guys. Well, we sure as hell envy them. Everyone who has ever played on appalling wickets on blustery hilltops, in driving rain or with myopic player umpires, would love to play test cricket even if it were a single test and no telling contribution was made. One the ’selectors’ would have been happy simply being a substitute fieldsman as long as he took a catch and could his name immortalised a ‘c (sub)’. 

In all honesty it was recognition that the 11 chosen had something that none of the 40-something panel did – a test cap. How do you choose the worst? Cricket is wonderfully subjective game despite it being so statistically rich. So it is with much love, respect and dignity we present the team  - to all of you, and those who nearly made it, we doff our caps to you. Or would if we had them. 

The Criteria

Statistics did play a major part, so two teams were eventually chosen – one for players with at least five test caps (“The Ineffectuals”), the other with those who had played for New Zealand simply by standing on the park (“The Highly Improbables”). Some made both teams, which speaks volumes for the playing talent pool at the time or possibly the whim of the selectors. We went for two openers (which left many poorly performed middle order men seething on the bench), at least three specialist batsmen, an all rounder (although this was muddied by the fact that some were picked for one talent only for a frustrated captain to ask them to perform something else in the vain hope of resuscitating a career), a spinner and three quicks. It didn’t quite work, but was pretty close. 

How hard was it? Well debate did rage – let’s simply look at the quick bowlers for the “Highly Improbables”. The late run of Michael Mason (at the expense of Robert Kennedy - 4 test, 6 wickets at 63.33) is somewhat cruel given he may yet make a mark on the test scene and may come again. Stu Gillespie (1 test, 1 wicket 79.00) was also desperately unlucky to miss out, but David Sewell’s lone test appearance (against Zimbabwe) was just too good especially as not only did he not take a wicket, with 1* he didn’t get a batting average either. But at 26, he is still young enough to play himself out of the side if his form picks up. Gary Robertson was well backed to miss the team by a couple of rabid Central Districts supporters, but his lone wicket (that of Tim Zoehrer) was controversial at least and at best ‘not out’ if the Australians are to be believed. 

We mused as to whether century makers (Parker with three and Morrison with one) got dispensation. They did not - see note above on selectorial whim and talent pool. One aspect that was heartening was the depth of wicket-keepers. Lee Germon got the nod in both teams despite statistically reasonable performances. However, when the fractured nature of the side during his tenure as captain was added, he was a shoe-in. 

Lastly, we must remember that there are little bits of history sprinkled throughout these players’ brief test careers. Peter Webb debuted in the historic win over the West Indies in Dunedin in 1980 (and was promptly dropped after the next game) while Geoff Allott is still a world record holder (longest time to get off the mark). Dipak Patel has something in common with Shane Warne (their highest test scores are both 99) and Chris Kuggeleijn bagged the catch that gave Sir Richard Hadlee his 374th and world record test wicket.

You know, with a little more practice and some selectorial gambles, any one of us could have been there. Except we weren’t. And these guys were. Good luck to them. 

The Ineffectuals

Blair Hartland (9 tests, 303 runs at an average of 16.83)
Darrin Murray (8, 303 at 20.20)
John Morrison (17, 656 at 22.62)
John Parker (36, 1498 at 24.55)
Chris Harris (23, 777 at 20.44, 16 wickets at an average of 73.12)
*+Lee Germon (12, 382 at 21.22, (caught/ stumped) 27/2)
Dipak Patel (37, 1200 at 20.68, 75 at 42.05)
Brooke Walker (5, 5 at 79.80)
Derek Stirling (6, 13 at 46.23)
Richard de Groen (5, 11 at 45.90)
Geoff Allot (10, 19 at 58.47)

The Highly Improbables

Blair Hartland (9, 303 at 16.83)
Darrin Murray (8, 303 at 20.20)
Phil Horne (4, 71 at 10.14)
Peter Webb (2, 11 at 3.66)
Chris Harris (23, 777 at 20.44, 16 at 73.12)
Chris Kuggeleijn (2, 7 at 1.75, 1 at 67.00)
*+Lee Germon (12, 382 at 21.22, 27/2)
Vaughan Brown (2, 1 at 176.00)
Gary Robertson (1, 1 at 91.00)
David Sewell (1, 0 for 90)
Michael Mason (1, 0 for 105)