The first Test of 2017’s series between the BLACKCAPS and Bangladesh showcased all of Test cricket’s nuances. It started with talk of pitch condition and went through weather interruptions, centuries, a mammoth partnership, a record score, injuries, collapses, and finished, fittingly, with a captain hitting a century in the final moments of play on the last day to lead his team to victory.
Matches like this, where more than 4000 fans stood among the pohutukawa on the final afternoon, became part of every fan’s own story: “I was there when…” Almost immediately, social media was abuzz with people recollecting their own I Was There memories: McCullum’s 302, Crowe’s 299, Test wins, 10-wicket bags, the list goes on.
For one member of the Museum’s staff, Barry Pateman, it was a small moment right at the end of the Test that sparked his own memories of moments he witnessed first-hand. Moments where he could rightly feel proud of cricket and being involved in the game, at whatever level.
The Museum recently had a donation of a little booklet documenting the Yorkshire Cricket Club’s tour of the USA in 1964. Skimming through it I was transported back to 1959 when my dad took me to see Yorkshire play at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. I can’t remember who they were playing but I remember my mum had packed us ham and tomato sandwiches! It was the beginning of Yorkshire’s dominance of English county cricket over the next decade or so, but all I saw were these huge men in shining whites with the sun glinting around them. I wanted to see the great Don Wilson and, of course, Freddie Trueman. Everyone wanted to see Freddie! I felt proud to be part of the spectacle that day although, admittedly, I was in awe of the players I was looking at – especially since there wasn’t the same relationship between players and spectators as there is now. Autographs were not freely given and words rarely exchanged except, at times, when the odd player suggested you should go away!
A second book I had been reading – again donated to the Museum library – was Whispering Death by Michael Holding, published in 1993. Some people remember Holding’s fearsome pace – Mike Selvey described facing Holding in his prime as the most frightening experience he ever had on the cricket field – or his apparently effortless delivery but I remember something else. In the 1980s Holding was playing for Derbyshire and I went to see them at the County Ground, Northampton for a John Player League Sunday League game. When the game ended the players walked off and three teenagers stood near Holding trying to get his attention. They were tough looking young men and a little out of place, to be honest. I saw Holding look over, point to his chest, and they nodded. He walked over to them and began to chat. I was watching him. He was showing them a grip on the ball and rotating his bowling arm. They were beginning to be more relaxed and were obviously asking questions. Forty- five minutes later they were still chatting, the lads were smiling and relaxed and he was laughing too. I had to leave but who knows how long they chatted? Here was one of the greatest fast bowlers the world has ever seen giving up his time easily and naturally – without an agent or PR manager in sight! Only when I read CLR James’ Beyond The Boundary (1963) (surely the greatest and most profound book about cricket ever written) did I realise the heavy responsibility carried by some of the great West Indian cricketers from that great team of the 80s to the people on their islands. Their job was both to represent and give back at a time when their national identity was changing. I realise now that, in his own way, Holding was helping those lads find pride in themselves like others had helped him. I have rarely been so impressed with a sportsman.
Of course it is today that makes our memories for tomorrow. We have just witnessed a most remarkable Test match between New Zealand and Bangladesh at the Basin Reserve. Tests are great fun here at the Museum: crowds come in, friends are made, donations are promised, and we look to keep cricketing memories alive. We obtained some Bangladesh memorabilia (which was sorely lacking) and one day they will be in a display for crowds to see. Perhaps, in a few years, looking at that display some of you who were there will remember what you had in your sandwiches that day with your mum or dad, or the friends you were with, or even the weather. You might remember the way the cricketers looked, or a player you spoke to and discussed some aspect of the game with. You might remember the first innings of Shakib al Hasan and his remarkable 217 (looking to this writers old eyes as elegant and relaxed as Gary Sobers), or the intelligent and masterful century by Kane Williamson that won the Test. In a few years time you can come to the Museum and see a Bangladesh shirt and these memories will come back. Trust me they always do.
My memory, though, won’t be of those brilliant knocks. Watching the celebrations at the end of the game, Ian Smith saw the Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim who had earlier been taken from the field by ambulance. The camera focused in and we saw a small man with a Bangladesh blazer and cap shaking hands with the victorious New Zealanders. He was concussed but safe. Smith went on to say that seeing Rahim safe was the most exciting event of this day (or words to that effect). That was a strong statement given the brilliant performance by New Zealand but they were words that needed to be said. As someone who regularly listens to broadcasts from all over the world, Smith’s words resonated and made me proud to be associated (admittedly in the smallest of ways) with cricket in New Zealand.
He did us all proud.