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
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
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.
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)