Did a young New Zealand Radio Host help the Black Caps win a cricket test? He thinks so! (And as the story is 50 years old he reckons its well worth re-telling!)

7 January 2019

By Keith Quinn (from his book Quinn's Quips) In my career by early 1969 I was deemed sound enough by the bosses of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, as a very young broadcaster, to be the regular studio host of the Sports Roundup radio show. It was quite simple broadcasting work and good for a young bloke to be involved with. But one day I think I played a major role in New Zealand winning a cricket test match!

Basically for that job I would arrive at one of the studios at Broadcasting House in downtown Wellington and open up the show. The 'show' actually was pretty uncomplicated action for me. After going on the sir I would read a few news, scores and stories from around the place. Then I would 'cross over' to a major sports event which we were featuring that day and which had commentary running ball-by-ball all for hours. I then waited in the studio, monitoring the broadcast in case it broke down. At any breaks in play, like lunch breaks or change of innings or halftime etc, I filled in by reading more sports news and adding additional news interviews and local updates.

On this particular day in early March 1969 (but 50 years from 2019) the game I was monitoring was a West Indies v New Zealand cricket test in Wellington. The weather was fine, the game was meandering along without need for my interruption, so I arrived at the studio I supposed I was in for an easy day.

For me at that time I felt that this was akin to being near the very peak of what was possible in the life of a sports broadcaster. As about a 23 year old I definitely thought of myself as a bit of a hotshot you must understand. I had made the odd appearance on TV reading the night-time sports news and my rugby reports from the Ranfurly Shield season in Napier were very exciting to do.

So when a man from the Radio Newsroom upstairs entered the studio holding a telegram (yes, a telegram!) and asked me what to do with it I had no hesitation.

It was addressed to "The Manager, West Indies Cricket team, c/- Broadcasting House, Wellington New Zealand" - and its content clearly and simply said 'Here is the West Indies Cricket team to tour to England at the conclusion of their tour of New Zealand.'

So I thought; 'wow! As I am in Broadcasting House this telegram must be directed at whoever the studio host that day is. So I thought 'I'll be the one who reads out this significant sports team in the next break in play!'

I never hesitated to think maybe the current West Indies team members, battling away against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve, might not themselves, have yet heard who of the current team were in for the England tour and who were in or out of the tour which was to follow in only a few weeks. 'Surely they would have received their own telegram.'

Accordingly on the fifth and final day of the test match, when the tea break came at the Basin Reserve and both teams had headed for their dressing rooms the radio commentary (no live TV sets in those days) was audible in the rooms for all the players to hear as they sat down for their 20 minute rest.

In my mind’s eye I now see someone in the West Indies room hearing a callow youth (that's me!) start to read from the telegram and my words beamed across the city into the West Indies touring team. The whole room would have shushed down as the implications of what was being said were taken in by the team.

The West Indies had had a tough time in Australia and accordingly, listening back home the WI selectors were not impressed. Changes were seen as being needed from the Australian to the English conditions. So right there on the radio were the changes the home selectors were making (six out of 16 of the Australian tourists were dropped as I recall);

They were read out very publicly by an ego-driven youth who was busting to make a name for himself; rather than checking to see if it was appropriate for him to do so.

Of course after tea apparently on the field at the Basin Reserve all hell broke loose. When the West Indies went back into the game the most angry ones came from among their bowling attack, those who had been callously and cold-heartedly and so publicly dismissed. So the bowlers ignored their previous tactics and just charged in, wildly flinging ball after ball loosely at the New Zealand batsmen. The tenor of the game quickly changed totally. 

New Zealand had been set 166 to win and at one point were down to 39-3; so a tough last session lay ahead. But with Charlie Griffith and Richard Edwards, two of their speed bowlers both in a rage at being dropped - along with the injured great Wesley Hall New Zealand cruised on to a six-wicket win.

The clipping I kept for my files is not of a glaring next day one; I don't think the reporters at the ground were aware of the 'background drama.' Rather the clipping I have kept it is a 'reflective' interview the captain Garfield Sobers gave to Gabriel David of The Evening Post in which Sobers spoke of being '"bitterly disappointed" with the West Indies selectors and their method of choosing and announcing the side (for the England tour.)

When Sobers added 'the team was subsequently announced on Monday afternoon, with the players hearing the side during the tea break in the second test, 'and the entire pace attack having been dropped'  he said he had 'threatened to quit' as West Indies captain.

But I your writer (now revealed as the secret announcer) was quietly thrilled.

So you be the judge, dear reader; had I had played my part for my country? Maybe I did - or maybe I didn't.

(But as I have often said 'it is my story and I'm sticking to it!')

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