Joseph Romanos' best-ever New Zealand test cricket
team is as notable for who is not in it as who is, writes
former Otago Daily Times sports editor Brent Edwards
A Century Of New Zealand's Best
Trio Books $49.99
It's almost New Zealand cricket's version of heresy - no Bert
Sutcliffe in the Black Caps' best-ever test team.
Wellington-based author Joseph Romanos has omitted Sutcliffe
from his top test team in his just-released book, Cricket
Portraits, A Century of New Zealand's Best.
Romanos profiles 100 of New Zealand's best cricketers and,
while he is effusive in his praise of Sutcliffe, he does not
select him in his top test side.
He chooses Glenn Turner and Stewie Dempster as his opening
batsmen and Andrew Jones as his No 3. The other specialist
batsmen are Martin Crowe, Martin Donnelly and John Reid.
Romanos said he anguished over omitting Sutcliffe and
all-rounder Chris Cairns from his test team.
"It seems almost sacrilegious not to name Sutcliffe, but I
could not find a space for him," Romanos writes.
"The records of openers Turner and Dempster are too good at
international level to ignore and Jones could not be denied
at No 3. He scored too well, and against such strong
opposition, that he demanded inclusion."
For the record, Dempster scored 723 test runs (average
65.72), including two centuries and five half-centuries,
between 1930 and 1933; Turner scored 2991 runs (average
44.64), including seven centuries and 14 half-centuries
between 1969 and 1983; Jones scored 2922 runs (average
44.27), including seven centuries and 11 half-centuries
between 1987 and 1995; and Sutcliffe scored 2727 runs
(average 40.70), including five centuries and 15
half-centuries between 1947 and 1965.
The averages of Dempster, Turner and Jones are better than
Sutcliffe's, marginally in the case of Turner and Jones, but
it should be remembered Sutcliffe propped up a weak New
Zealand batting order for much of his career. And what can't
be measured in statistics is the charm and grace with which
Sutcliffe thrilled crowds throughout the cricket world.
I would have opened with Turner and Dempster, batted Crowe at
No 3 and Sutcliffe at No 4.
Romanos writes that Sutcliffe's career reached a crisis point
during the Boxing Day test against South Africa in
Johannesburg in 1953 when he was struck on the ear by a
kicking delivery by Neil Adcock and returned, heavily
bandaged, to play an heroic innings, 80 not out with seven
"Until Sutcliffe played it," cricket correspondent Denzil
Batchelor wrote, "such an innings existed only in the dreams
of schoolboys. It was Sutcliffe's finest hour, and his most
Romanos contends that, while Sutcliffe remained a highly
skilled batsman, he was never the same batsman after the
fearful blow he was struck at Ellis Park.
Instead, Sutcliffe is relegated to No 5 in Romanos' second
side, which is also a strong line-up.
Romanos also regrets the omission of Cairns from his top test
"Chris Cairns, of course, was a wonderful all-rounder, but I
have two all-rounders in my team already in John Reid and
Richard Hadlee (Jacob Oram must also have been a contender).
So the decision came down to the best pace bowlers and Jack
Cowie and Shane Bond, with his extra sharpness, shade
The two spinners in Romanos' team lived part of their lives
Off-spinner Alex Downes was born in Victoria but grew up in
Dunedin and played for Grange and Otago. And leg-spinner
Clarrie Grimmett was born in Dunedin but later moved to
Australia where he formed a deadly spin combination with Bill
Downes' first-class career lasted from 1888 to 1914. He took
20 wickets in six tests (average 28) and 311 wickets in all
major matches at 14.67. He reigned supreme at Carisbrook,
where he claimed 209 wickets for Otago at 12.96.
He played 13 rugby matches for Otago as an outside back and
was later a top referee, controlling the test between New
Zealand and Australia in Dunedin in 1913.
Grimmett played virtually all his first-class cricket in
Australia where, between 1912 and 1940, he took 1424 wickets
at 22.28. In 37 tests he claimed 216 wickets at 24.21 and was
regarded as a champion of his era.
Romanos' second team of 12 is: Mark Richardson, John Wright
(captain), Bevan Congdon, Roger Blunt, Sutcliffe, Nathan
Astle, Cairns, Daniel Vettori, John Bracewell, Ken James,
Dick Motz, Tom Pritchard.
Otago is heavily represented in Romanos' teams. Four players
who represented the province are in the top side - Reid,
Turner, Jones and Downes - and there are five - Sutcliffe,
Roger Blunt, Mark Richardson, Bevan Congdon and John
Bracewell - in the second team.
Romanos also names his best one-day team: Brendon McCullum,
Nathan Astle, Martin Crowe, Roger Twose, Scott Styris, Jeremy
Coney, Chris Cairns, Richard Hadlee, Daniel Vettori, Shane
Bond, Geoff Allott, Chris Harris (12th man).
• Romanos XII
Best NZ test side?-