Sydney Gordon Smith is one of the more remarkable cricketers to have ever represented New Zealand. Born in Trinidad, Syd played First Class cricket for the West Indies, England (as the MCC) and New Zealand, although he never played in an official Test. Amongst his achievements he was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1915 and finished his career with over 10000 runs and 955 wickets. In January 1920, he hit 256 for Auckland against Canterbury and then, in the same month, took 8 for 55 in an innings (and 13 in the match) against Wellington. His name has largely been forgotten over the years as the increase in Test cricket made it the marker of careers, but Syd Smith was an incredible talent who was a cricket journeyman long before T20 leagues gave players that title.
But this story isn’t about Syd Smith, it’s about Sid Smith. Exactly who was Sid Smith? To this point, we’re actually not sure. The only reason we know of him is from this tape, a recent donation to the New Zealand Cricket Museum that was hidden at the bottom of a box of books.
Initially, we assumed there was a typo on the box and Sid was really Syd, and this would be a unique insight into the cricketer with a formidable record. Once we had the chance to listen to Sid Smith: The World’s Greatest Cricketer however, it was obvious that this was a unique insight into a completely different sort of cricketer. Sid Smith was the backyard legend, the local boy come good, and, in the eyes of the story-teller, the world’s greatest cricketer. Even better than Bradman.
To compare Bradman and Sid Smith is like comparing a candle and the sun. Bradman was bowled sometimes. Sid Smith, never.
The story told on this recording is the story of cricket’s grassroots, filled with anecdotes, subtle humour and a long list of reasons as to why Sid Smith of Kaiapoi was a better cricketer than Don Bradman of Bowral. The Sid Smith of the story was playing cricket over 100 years ago but this recording dates to the days of Colin Cowdrey – through the 60s and into the 70s. That’s a long time for a cricket fan to remember a player they saw on their local pitches, playing club cricket and showing off a fearsome cut shot.
Even though this story goes back to before New Zealand played Test matches, before WWI, it still resonates. Every club has their Sid Smith, that player who seems to have more time and skill than their teammates, whose chance for higher honours seems to be just around the corner, who becomes a hero for up-and-coming players before the superstars take their eye.
Here at the New Zealand Cricket Museum we celebrate all levels of cricket, and all those who make up the cricket community. Because of that we tip our cap to Sid Smith and his story-teller, sharing their story. Who’s your Sid Smith?
Thanks to Archives NZ for their assistance in helping us make Sid’s story available to you.