What, no Bert?

CRICKET PORTRAITS <br /> A Century Of New Zealand's Best <b><br /> Joseph Romanos</b> <br /> <i>Trio Books $49.99</i>
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 writes.

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 sixes.

"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 traumatic."

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 side.

"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 Cairns."

The two spinners in Romanos' team lived part of their lives in Dunedin.

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 O'Reilly.

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?-

Glenn Turner
Stewie Dempster
Andrew Jones
Martin Crowe
Martin Donnelly
John Reid
Richard Hadlee
Ian Smith
Shane Bond
Clarrie Grimmett
Jack Cowie
Alex Downes

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