Bevan Congdon is probably quite high up on the list of cricketers who you would choose to play for your life. New Zealand cricket supporters of a certain age can still fondly remember some significant innings that he played. Sadly, those innings were sometimes in a game-saving or losing situation rather than providing the impetus for a rare (in those days) win.
To date, not much has been written about the man and his entire career, including the support of his family. A magazine article here or a chapter in a book there, largely focused on the early 1970s when, initially as stand-in captain and then captain in his own right, he was a solid rock near the top of the New Zealand batting order.
Bill Francis seeks to put that right with his book, A Singular Man. Interspersed with some illuminating photographs from the family’s collection, this book briefly covers his life from growing up in Motueka, his Plunket Shield career with four of the six provincial teams (thanks to an employer with offices in several centres), his Test career and touring, life after cricket (because for most cricketers there is life after cricket), and his family.
Bevan Congdon has the reputation of being rather dour. The photographs of him batting support that view – there is nothing particularly flashy as each one captures a look of determination in his eye as he defends or scores. Those that are away from the pitch, including a delightful view of him sharing a joke with England captain Ray Illingworth at the start of the 1973 series, generally show a smile on his face.
Bevan’s ailing health, which is mentioned in the book, has meant that this book has been put together in something of a hurry. Perhaps because of that, it scratches the surface in places where you feel there must be more to tell.
However, that is only a minor annoyance and this is a valuable book for the cricket-lover’s library. It opens the door on one of New Zealand’s leading performers from the not-to-distant past.
This reviewer just wishes the door was open a bit wider rather than slightly-ajar.