For­mer NZ test cap­tain Cong­don dies at 79

Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - By An­drew Alder­son

For­mer New Zealand test cricket cap­tain Be­van Cong­don died yes­ter­day, one day shy of his 80th birth­day.

He played 61 tests, scor­ing 3448 runs at an av­er­age of 32.22, in­clud­ing seven cen­turies. When he re­tired he had played more tests and scored more runs than any New Zealan­der. He also took 59 wick­ets at 36.50.

Cong­don led New Zealand to their first test win over Aus­tralia at Christchurch in 1974.

He also ap­peared in 11 one-day in­ter­na­tion­als. That in­cluded cap­tain­ing New Zealand dur­ing their de­but in the for­mat on Fe­bru­ary 11, 1973 against Pak­istan in Christchurch — his 35th birth­day.

The all-rounder grew up the youngest in a fam­ily of six boys in the to­bacco hub of Motueka.

His health had been fail­ing some time.

Fam­ily and friends gath­ered at How­ick Bap­tist Hos­pi­tal to cel­e­brate his achieve­ments last July.

Cong­don was joined by sev­eral for­mer team­mates for the launch of A Sin­gu­lar Man, a mono­graph of his for life and times, over morn­ing tea. New Zealand cricket au­thor­ity Bill Fran­cis wrote the book. It of­fered an in­sight into the ca­reer of one of the sport’s most pro­fes­sional am­a­teurs.

Cong­don was re­stricted to a wheel­chair and had dif­fi­culty speak­ing at the func­tion, but the de­light and com­pas­sion with which guests rem­i­nisced about “Congo’s ca­reer” made for a heart-warm­ing oc­ca­sion shared along­side wife Shirley, daugh­ters Ali and Sandy, and the wider fam­ily.

The idea for the book was ini­ti­ated by The Crick­eters’ Trust, an or­gan­i­sa­tion es­tab­lished by the New Zealand Cricket Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion with a view to “as­sist­ing past crick­eters who have fallen on hard times”.

Sale pro­ceeds went to­wards sup­port­ing those who have “suf­fered a cri­sis in their lives and are strug­gling fi­nan­cially or with their health and well­be­ing”.

Fran­cis summed up his sub­ject’s con­tri­bu­tion to the New Zealand game in the in­tro­duc­tion.

“It wasn’t hard to ad­mire Cong­don be­cause you sensed there was a gutsi­ness and pur­pose to his cricket that ap­peared to carry the prin­ci­pal goal of mak­ing New Zealand a more suc­cess­ful crick­et­ing na­tion.

“Among the play­ing ranks, the sin­gle-mind­ed­ness of his ap­proach to the game was not to ev­ery­one’s com­fort — his cap­taincy could be un­for­giv­ing if he felt the ef­fort wasn’t at the level of his ex­pec­ta­tion.

“At times his ‘loner’ per­son­al­ity may have been judged as brusque and stand-off­ish — such a ver­dict failed to take ac­count of his in­nate shy­ness. What no one could ever be­grudge was the dis­ci­pline and ef­fec­tive­ness of his en­deav­our.”

Cong­don’s sig­na­ture in­nings came con­sec­u­tively, as cap­tain on the 1973 Eng­land tour.

On the third day of the first test at Trent Bridge, New Zealand be­gan their sec­ond in­nings need­ing 479 to win but slumped to 16 for two. Cong­don came in and reached 24 be­fore pace bowler John Snow struck him on the cheek in the pre-hel­met era.

As jour­nal­ist Dick Brit­ten­den recorded in the 1974 Wis­den: “Af­ter a few min­utes’ de­lay, Cong­don took strike again, and Snow dropped one just short enough to threaten fur­ther dis­com­fort. Cong­don moved into line to play it per­fectly and he went on to con­trib­ute 176 to­wards New Zealand’s gal­lant 440.”

Cong­don ig­nored the ten­sion in the dress­ing room on the fi­nal morn­ing by read­ing a CS Forester novel as his side edged to­wards 400 for five.

In the fol­low­ing drawn test at Lord’s he made 175 as part of New Zealand’s 551 for nine.

The book’s re­lease brought lev­ity amid emo­tional scenes.

Daugh­ter Sandy chuck­led about the “Cong­don death stare” which could dis­suade her of what­ever mis­chief she plot­ted as a child.

As part of his re­search, Fran­cis un­cov­ered a ra­dio in­ter­view “lurk­ing in the vaults of Nga Taonga Sound & Vi­sion” in which Cong­don gave his views on play­ing test cricket.

“The higher the grade, the harder the game, the eas­ier it is to con­cen­trate. One of the dan­gers of com­ing into test cricket is to be over­whelmed by the names and records of the op­po­si­tion or the com­pany of your team­mates. That’s not a good thing. You’re there be­cause you’re good and there­fore you can re­alise your po­ten­tial.”

Cong­don re­alised his.

Getty Im­ages

Car­los Gar­cia Knight Kiwi snow­boarder Car­los Gar­cia Knight gets plenty of air dur­ing slopestyle qual­i­fy­ing in PyeongChang yes­ter­day.

NZ Her­ald Ar­chives

Be­van Cong­don led New Zealand to their first test vic­tory over Aus­tralia at Christchurch in 1974.

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