Bevan Congdon – How His Brother Forced Him Into Cricket
Bevan Congdon the 33 years old New Zealand captain has established himself as a world-class batsman. His tremendous batting and fine leadership were mainly responsible for pushing England to the brink of defeat in the two test matches.
When I talked to him he expressed his disappointment in not clinching both tests, as one was drawn and the other lost by New Zealand. The Lord’s game more so than the one at Trent Bridge because we were playing from strength whereas at Nottingham we came from a long way behind. I cannot accept the criticism that I should have declared on a Saturday evening at Lord’s. Had done so I would have considerably weakened the position we were in.
Bevan Congdon’s praise for Keith Fletcher’s innings at Lord’s was also generous, he played a truly great innings against us, damn it, he said smiling. More important it was an innings of great maturity and commonsense.
Bevan Congdon has one of his brothers to thank for talking up cricket. He was the sixth and youngest son of Cecil Congdon, who ran the local butcher’s shop in Motueka a small township of nearly 3,000 inhabitants in South Island. When he was 16, he was invited to play in senior club cricket but turned down the offer because he felt he would not do himself justice.
I did not see myself as a cricketer. In fact, I fancied myself at tennis after I had saved enough money. I bought a load of tennis equipment. When he got home his elder brother look at it and said; we will make a bonfire of that. You are going to be a cricketer.
Les Townshend the former Derbyshire player was coaching 35 miles away in Nelson. Bevan Congdon made the trip twice a week for cricket practice. Three other local lads went with him, but the novelty soon wore off for them and he did the 140 miles a week on his own.
He made unspectacular progress and was 24 before being asked to play for Nelson. He did well enough in his first season to justify his brother’s determination, his own dedication, and Townshend’s patience. Given a trial by Central District the following season, in 1960-61. He made a half-century and took 2 for 29. He has played in the Plunkett Shield, New Zealand’s only first-class competition ever since.
Eight years ago he was unknown in his country but after playing in three Tests against Pakistan he was brought over for the 1965 tour as a utility batsman and reserve wicketkeeper. The Kiwi captain who hit 176 at Trent Bridge and 175 at Lord’s has had to bridge a tremendous gulf to compete successfully with the world’s best players. I used to be a bottom-hand player, he says. But I have now disciplined myself to make my top hand the boss. This has given my batting the control it used to lack.
The new style has brought him a fine Test batsman. Before this tour, he made 104 runs against England at Christchurch in 1966 and two against the West Indies in 1971-72 and 166 not out at Port of Spain and 126 at Bridgetown.
Bevan Congdon who lives in Dundein and works as an area sales manager for British Tobacco Company has spent three and a half of the last eight years playing cricket all over the world and admits he does not like the price it has cost his family life. He comforts himself with the knowledge that it is helping to provide a secure future.
‘My employers released me to captain New Zealand, but when I am not playing, they expect a foil week’s work from me.’ New Zealanders generally retire from first-class cricket in their mid-thirties, otherwise, they lose out in matters of jobs and monetary rewards.
‘The single men in the present touring side, for example, get an allowance of £3.50 a day, while the married ones get less than a fiver! Not exactly princely sums for men who helped bring in £60,000 at Lord’s.
Obviously, from his record, dark, lantern-jawed Bevan Congdon is one of those men who need the big occasion to bring the best out of him. Off the field, he has – proved as good a spoiling ambassador as any country could wish for. But the thing that ensures Bevan Congdon’s immortality is that he has achieved what no one in world cricket thought remotely possible he has made the Kiwi’s big box office.