Otago Daily Times
Reid led NZ into modern cricketing world
THERE were times when young boys wanted the summers to never end. They were there when the gates opened at Carisbrook and there again when they closed, day after glorious day. Long years before Paul Simon wrote the words, they were days of miracle and wonder.
John Reid, one of those most responsible for giving New Zealand cricket international credibility, played for Otago for a time. To say Reid “played” cricket is like saying Beethoven was just a musician or van Gogh a dabbler on canvas. He lived up the road in Oamaru where he worked for BP, and his stage was Carisbrook.
One day it might be his batting and you’d swear the crack of his bat swatting the ball could be heard in Hillside Rd. Another, it might be his bowling, one variety or another. Every day, it was his fielding, anticipation, speed and eyesight all one amazing blur of white on green.
John Richard Reid was born in Auckland on June 3, 1928. He was reared and educated in Wellington, and he was a freeman of the cricket world.
Reid’s sporting ability and competitiveness were apparent early. His Scottishborn father Norman, a rugby league fullback, tutored his son in the arts of rugby, especially goalkicking, with such effect that Reid went straight into the Hutt Valley High School First XV in his first year.
Cricket wasn’t far behind because he was in the First XI as a thirdformer as well, but rugby was his first love. He was a school contemporary of later All Blacks Ron Jarden and Jim Fitzgerald and good judges were sure Reid would be an All Black, too.
Reid himself had hopes but they ended after two bouts of rheumatic fever and he consoled himself with his second choice, cricket. Reid later said that it took a long time before he could watch rugby again, such was his disappointment. The only good thing about rheumatic fever, he later recalled, was that he met and later married one of his nurses, Norli le Fevre.
His cricket was on an everupward trajectory. At the age of 19, he made his firstclass debut on New Year’s Eve 1947, scoring 79 for Wellington and putting on 145 for the second wicket with the games polymath,
Selection in Walter Hadlee’s team for England in 1949 seemed inevitable and on the voyage to the United Kingdom, Reid gained a nickname that he was to carry for the rest of his life. In a shipboard fancy dress party, he appeared barechested and wearing what passed as a loin cloth so one of his quickwitted teammates named him “Bogo,” for an oversized chimpanzee that had appeared in a popular Dorothy Lamour film of the time, The Jungle Princess.
Reid showed on that tour, when New Zealand went through the four tests without a loss, he was fast becoming, if not already, the most accomplished allrounder in cricket.
He was an attacking toporder batsman, a brisk mediumfast change bowler who could also bowl offspin if necessary, a fielder a captain could trust in any position, and in the fourth test, he was also wicketkeeper. And just to emphasise he’d arrived, he scored 93 in that final test at the Oval.
For the next 16 or so years, Reid was synonymous with New Zealand cricket.
He and his older friend and teammate, Bert Sutcliffe, were the glue that held the game together; they seemed at times the only New Zealand batsmen capable of scoring centuries. The pair were together for Otago too, making the summers of 195657 and 195758 such delights.
They were a study in contrasts: the lefthanded Sutcliffe the dapper stylist, his bat a rapier; Reid the righthander the constant aggressor, his bat a claymore.
There was also Reid’s bowling. In one game at Carisbrook, against Central Districts in January 1957, Reid scored 97 in the first innings
(of 264, with Eric Watson the only other significant contributor with 76). On the third day, Central was chasing 255 in six hours for a win, but within an hour, it was at 21 for six. By the end, Reid had seven for 20, his best firstclass return.
Another day to savour was a year later against Canterbury. Reid scored 201 in a 266minute innings that included five sixes and 22 fours. In Canterbury’s only innings, Reid took three for 15 from 19 overs, 15 of which were maidens.
But statistics are seldom a true measure of greatness in sport. As impressive as Reid’s test and firstclass analyses are, they don’t show how important he was to the sides he played for, especially New Zealand.
For much of his career, Reid played — as did Sutcliffe — with a Nelsonian burden on his broad shoulders, that his country expected him to do his duty. Invariably, he did.
He captained New Zealand in the country’s first test win, against West Indies in 1956, and in the first away win, against South Africa in 1962. It seemed nothing for him to hit sixes in the opening session of a test — he once hit four in 10 balls against India. He also held the world record for a time of sixes in a firstclass innings — 15 of them in a score of
296 for Wellington against Northern Districts.
By the time he retired, he’d scored more runs, taken more wickets and more catches than any other New Zealander. He led New Zealand into the modern cricketing world. In a later era of limitedover matches, he would have been a oneman sensation.
Reid entered a cricketing twilight as a coach and selector then a match referee, officiating in 50 tests and while his playing days were well in the past, his name and reputation still gained him instant recognition and respect.
He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1962 and a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2014. He and Norli had three children, Richard — who played oneday cricket for New Zealand, and later served as chief executive of the Highlanders and Otago rugby — and Alison and Ann.