"All those in favour please say 'aye'"

Cricket and politics, or should that be, politicians who love cricket, have been synonymous with Western democracies

Lynn McConnell
Cricket and politics, or should that be, politicians who love cricket, have been synonymous with Western democracies. Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies made no secret of his love for the great game. Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley wrote his own history of West Indian cricket. England's last conservative Prime Minister John Major is still a passionate follower of the game. They are but a few who take refuge from their professional lives in the game. Given the duties of Speaker of the House of Representatives in New Zealand, it is no wonder that the Right Honourable Jonathan Hunt MP looks to cricket for his recreation. He recently spoke at one of Cricket Wellington's members' luncheons. He immediately eliminated any prospect of being caught on a 'sticky dog' or being summarily dismissed by proclaiming to the audience that the Basin Reserve was his favourite cricket ground.
Like so many of his generation New Zealand's Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Right Honourable Jonathan Hunt MP had a lifelong interest in cricket fashioned by the deeds of Don Bradman's 1948 team in England.
In Hunt's case it was as a nine-year-old hopping in his father's bed and listening to the commentaries of John Arlott and Alan McGilvray covering the tour for radio.
Bradman's exploits were tempered by what Hunt called "the spectacular success of Denis Compton."
"He [Compton] was my schoolboy hero and I can remember that he scored 184 at Trent Bridge before most unluckily hitting his wicket. I recall too at Old Trafford that, although he was injured by a bouncer from Ray Lindwall, he came back and scored 145.
"My father was a passionate Australian fan, because he spent a lot of his early life in the outback of Queensland, Australia. He and I both listened to the wonderful victory at Leeds in 1948 when Bradman and Morris ensured that Australia scored over 400 runs to win a great cricket match."
Apart from the love of cricket that inured in Hunt, it also made him a firm believer in the virtues of five-day test matches. Even if that meant being in attendance at Eden Park on the day in 1955 when New Zealand was dismissed by England for a paltry, world record 26.
"I was, however, delighted to be present the following year when we finally won our first ever test match, against the West Indies, also at Eden Park."
After leaving university, Hunt travelled to Australia in 1961-62.
"One of my great cricket memories was to watch, along with 82,000 other people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day, Alan Davidson bowled David Sheppard for a duck fourth ball and then watched Ted Dexter come in and hit seven fours off the front foot in three overs.
"I was probably the only England supporter at the ground and rejoiced in Fred Trueman's great 11 wicket haul. In the final innings, when England required over 200 to win, the Rev David Sheppard found out he had God on his side and scored a winning century."
Among the many test matches he has watching, was the first test held in Perth. While he also watched Greg Chappell blossom as a batsman.
"For the first half-hour he poked around and was almost out three or four times but then his 50 runs came in nearly even time and I knew that I was catching the first glimpse of a star to be.
"I saw Colin Cowdrey hit Alan Davidson for four successive fours at Adelaide and then watch Alan Davidson limp off to the dressing room.
"The greatest innings I ever saw was in a Rest of the World versus Australia series, once again at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This was when the great Sir Garfield Sobers hit a magnificent double century.
"Two things stand out in my mind. He had a few balls of difficulty with the Australian leg-spinner O'Keefe. In the first over after lunch he his 24 in an over and I nearly had my first and only catch sitting up in the Southern Stand!
"Then a new ball was taken and with Dennis Lillee's first delivery he square-cut the ball with such speed and majesty that even the Melbourne crowd rose and applauded.
"In 1998, after an exhausting parliamentary session I left New Zealand on Boxing Day morning to spend a couple of weeks with friends in Melbourne. This was the first day of the test match between South Africa and Australia.
"For five days without one minute being lost through rain or bad light, I sat enthralled watching 30 hours of the best test cricket that you could ever wish to see.
"The two teams were pretty evenly matches and fortunes fluctuated. On the fifth day in the early afternoon session Shane Warne bowled the perfect leg break which caught Kirsten's bat and went straight to second slip. Had the catch been taken Australia would have won. Instead the second slip dropped it and the game ended in a draw.
"Last December, because I was keen to see the new millennium at my home at Karekare in the west of Auckland, I sat able to watch on TV the wonderful test at the Basin Reserve, surely one of the world's great cricket grounds.
"This time New Zealand was triumphant and, ironically, had I been in Melbourne I would not have seen any cricket because rain wiped out the whole test match. I rest my case!
"Five day tests delight the purists and how better to spend a relaxing time in the summer preparing for a busy year ahead.
"Forget the one day spectacles which are often fun but which too often are accompanied by too much noise, too little skill and too much luck for the winning side. I hope five day tests continue right throughout this century."
(Edited from a speech recorded in Cricket Wellington Inc's August 2000 issue of Beyond the Boundary).