Hadlee’s world test record: 30 years later
New Zealand’s finest cricketer is celebrating a special milestone. MARK GEENTY reports.
Aweary, euphoric Richard Hadlee sat in the Chinnaswamy Stadium dressing room; battered cricket ball in one hand, bottle of bubbly in the other. Hadlee beamed as he sat atop his cricketing Everest in Bangalore.
It was November 12, 1988, and the world record was finally his, having passed Ian Botham’s haul of 373 test wickets. He would remain on that lofty perch until 1994, nearly four years after his retirement when Kapil Dev topped his final tally of 431.
‘‘To be a pacesetter, and a New Zealander to do it which was unheard of, and to manage to hang onto it for another five or so years — to be the one for others to chase was significant in my career,’’ Hadlee recalled.
It was only part one of the story of a remarkable cricket test. Unable to field 11 players when the whole team except Ian Smith were flattened by illness after an official function, they summoned radio commentator and former skipper Jeremy Coney and TV reporter Ken Nicholson to don the whites. Hadlee and Chris Kuggeleijn, catcher of the world record wicket of Arun Lal, were barely able to stand, but they played on.
Thirty years on, he’s felt a lot better, Sir Richard, but remains sharp and upbeat on the phone from his Christchurch home.
Having been through two cancer surgeries this year and still undergoing chemotherapy, our greatest cricketer prefers not to discuss his health, but accepts an invitation to walk down memory lane to Bangalore.
In 1988 expectation had built to fever pitch. Hadlee took his 373rd wicket, Australian Tony Dodemaide, the previous December before batting bunny Mike Whitney denied New Zealand a test victory, and Hadlee his 374th, in an epic Boxing Day test at the MCG.
Then England toured in February and a big home crowd at Lancaster Park was silenced. Hadlee hobbled off just before tea on day one of the first test, wicketless, after suffering a calf strain, his series over. He felt he’d failed.
Hadlee also vowed never to return to India after a horror first visit in 1976. He says now: ‘‘Regrettable comments to make. When you’re on your first tour and you find it difficult and you’re sick for half the tour you think it’s not a place you want to return to. With time attitudes change.’’
After toiling through a Christchurch winter to regain full fitness, Hadlee was on the plane under captain John Wright and coach Bob Cunis.
It started well: Hadlee tore through West Zone at Rajkot and took 9-55, eerily close to those magical test figures of 9-52 from Brisbane three years earlier.
‘‘John Bracewell got the other one. There were a fair number of lbw decisions in my favour which was a surprise. The umpire was P D Reporter and in the test series I don’t think I got one out of him.’’
Hadlee had never been to Chinnaswamy Stadium, but found photographs and visualised Indian opener Kris Srikkanth in his crouched stance, wearing a blue helmet, going after him and edging behind to Smith for the record. ‘‘We practiced there and I got used to the surroundings, a big stadium, a lovely ground. We lost the toss and bowled first, and all my visualisation and dreams were shattered when Srikkanth walked out to bat in a white helmet, which upset me a bit. There was another batsman walking out who I’d hardly heard of, Arun Lal, a diminutive fellow, and I bowled an untidy first over.’’
Hadlee was, and still is, revered in India and a big crowd was in, with thousands more outside reacting to roars they heard from inside.
Smith told him to pitch the ball up more and in Hadlee’s third over the English Dukes ball found Lal’s edge at comfortable knee height to test debutant Kuggeleijn at third slip.
Back in New Zealand there was no live TV coverage and Bryan Waddle’s radio commentary down a crackly line captured the moment. ‘‘The Rolls Royce of fast bowlers opens a new page in cricket history,’’ is the line that stands out for Hadlee.
He’d done it. Hadlee waved to the crowd and skittled Srikkanth soon afterwards for No 375. India were 243-3 at stumps and the dressing room celebrations began.
‘‘It was sheer delight and relief. This wicket had been contemplated for so long, it was there for the taking and all of a sudden it became a reality. All the players gathered around and congratulated me, my wife at the time, Karen, was there at the ground.
‘‘I got tied up in the euphoria of the whole thing but the key point was it was done quickly and we got on with the game. But we got beaten.’’
And they got ill. Very ill.
Kuggeleijn was 32 and surprised to be picked in the test squad for India.
‘‘I was more a one-day player and I’d gone OK, but if they were picking a test side I probably wouldn’t have got in it. Martin Crowe was crook so I ended up playing test cricket which I didn’t think I was going to.’’
A key member of the social committee, and a good fielder, Kuggeleijn quipped those two factors sealed his spot.
So he crouched at third slip on a brilliantly fine Bangalore day, completing a cordon of Smith, Mark Greatbatch and Bracewell, wondering who would be part of the great fast bowler’s milestone.
‘‘I wasn’t sitting there thinking ‘I hope he nicks it to me’, I was just hoping like hell that if something came near me I’d catch it,’’ Kuggeleijn said.
‘‘It came at a nice height and a nice speed, and most third graders would have caught it.’’
But the more vivid memories for Kuggeleijn are of what happened next. On the night before the rest day the team were invited to a banquet, as Wright later described it: ‘‘the chance to meet a thousand or so local cricket administrators in a room the size of a lift’’.
At 2am, Kuggeleijn woke in an awful state. It got worse and he says he lost 7kg in four days.
‘‘Richard and I just couldn’t go to the ground. Honestly, I was just in the bath because it was coming out either end at speed. Some little Indian man was ramming needles into me trying to stop it.
‘‘We had to go out and bat so we got in a tuk-tuk and I was described as ‘the ghostly Kuggeleijn’. My first ball in test cricket I just remember Kapil Dev running in and I tried to hit it, it hit me on the pad and that was me gone. It was back to the hutch and back to sleep.’’
Kuggeleijn batted below Ewen Chatfield at No 11 then Hadlee, who’d been not out overnight, returned to the crease with New Zealand still two runs short of avoiding the follow-on.
Said Hadlee: ‘‘I didn’t know where I was; I didn’t even walk to crease, I walked more to where the umpire was standing. I was so far off course. It might have been Kapil who helped me get to the right place to take guard.
‘‘Charlie Chatfield squirted one down to third man and ran all the way to my end and I was on my haunches, he ran all the way back and ran two for nothing. He was pretty annoyed because runs to him were like hens’ teeth.
‘‘We were three or four runs short and Kapil bowled to me and I slashed at one which went for four and we got across the line. We did what we had to.’’
Ken Nicholson was a handy seamer who played 20 years for Southland, and one first-class match for Otago, as he began a media career.
He struck up a friendship with Cunis playing Hawke Cup cricket and when he was sent to India to cover Hadlee’s impending record for TVNZ, the coach told Nicholson to bring his boots as a net bowler. On day four in Bangalore he was required for more than net bowling.
‘‘Cuni rang me up about 6am and said ‘you know those boots, could you bring them to the ground’,’’ Nicholson recalled.
‘‘I walked along to see Cuni in the hotel we were staying and there were big crosses on the doors not