Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Tingling Catch contributor's memorial service

On Friday I spoke at the memorial service for Harvey McQueen, a contributor and advisor to A Tingling Catch.
Here's a link to the eulogy I read that I posted on my personal website:
See also my related blog posts: 'A Tingling Catch contributor Harvey McQueen dies' and 'Harvey McQueen's These I Have Loved'.

Mark Pirie discusses A Tingling Catch

I was interviewed by Kathryn Ryan on 9 to Noon, Tuesday, 25 January 2011.
Here's a link to the discussion on A Tingling Catch, my publishing company HeadworX, and the Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa that I'm involved in setting up:
It's a 20 minute interview so it could take a while before I can make a transcript available.

Mark Pirie's new poem At the Basin

The following poem of mine appeared in The Wellingtonian, Letters section, 27 January 2011:


At the Basin

For Daniel Vettori

At the Basin
Guptill’s out caught behind.
Ryder’s in,
then gone, wrong frame of mind.

Who’ll steady the ship,
bail us out? Vettori’s in
ready to shoot from the hip
at the Basin.

NZ v Pakistan, Basin Reserve, Test Match, 15-19 January 2011

Poem © Mark Pirie 2011

A week later Ryder redeemed himself ahead of the World Cup with a quick-fire 50 in the first ODI against Pakistan. Vettori made 110 at the Basin in the New Zealand first innings of 356, his 6th Test century.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Waikato Times review of A Tingling Catch

The following review by Jeff Neems appeared in the Waikato Times, 14 January 2011, Leisure supplement, p. 15.


Verses for the Summer Game

Review of A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009, edited by Mark Pirie (HeadworX, RRP $34.99)

In the 17 years since I completed an English Literature degree at
Waikato University, I’ve barely read a single poem.
  Three years of literary study and more than a decade of journalism largely burnt out my desire for recreational reading, except for the odd music book or quirky non-fiction work.
  Mark Pirie’s collection of New Zealand cricket poetry sat on my shelves for several weeks until, with the summer heating up and the cricket season under way, I gave it a closer look.
  What a terrific volume it is. It’s surprising, firstly, to discover just how much poetry has been written about the national summer game – as the title indicates, some of the verses included date back more than a century – and cricketing material traversed include everything from Lord’s (the London ground considered the home of the game) to songs sung by club cricketers, backyard cricket, and peculiar bat-and-ball moments few actually remember. Foreign tours, run-outs, first-ball ducks, famous players’ failures – all the vagaries of cricket are included.
  Admittedly a handful of poems have only the most tenuous connection to cricket, but it’s enough to see them included. A line here or there on the game makes them worthy in the compiler’s view.
  Some of the poems spread across several pages, with numerous complicated verse which at times can be slightly difficult to follow. These are generally the older poems, and some may require a second reading to gain full comprehension – although, thankfully, in many cases, the context of the poems is briefly detailed in helpful footnotes.
  Several of Michael O’Leary’s cricket-based poems are included, based on popular songs from the likes of The Doors and Bob Marley.
  I’m now into my late 30s, so it’s the material from the late 1970s onwards which was of most interest to me.
  Pirie’s own ‘The Record’ – just two verses – details Martin Crowe’s failure to complete a triple-century at the Basin Reserve in 1991 (he was caught behind on 299). There’s an excellent homage to veteran New Zealand all-rounder Chris Harris, ‘Ode to Harry’, from an anonymous author who demands Harris’s inclusion in the national team. There’s a similar feel to ‘A Tribute to RJ Hadlee’ by Ian Donnelly, which praises the great seam and swing bowler over eight four-line verses. The book's most poignant entry is just two lines long from Harry Ricketts – his ‘Epitaph for an old cricketer’.
It goes:

Death’s sharp offcutter
has bowled you through the gate.

Touching stuff, and the words I’d like inscribed on my headstone.
  If the crack of leather ball on willow bat soundtracks your summer, and you’ve a taste for well-chosen words, Pirie’s anthology will delight you, and while away many hours between deliveries.

Jeff Neems is a Waikato Times feature writer and club cricketer.

Review © Jeff Neems 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Liam Ferney’s Australian cricket poem

When I was in Brisbane for Subverse: Queensland Poetry Festival in 2000 and 2001, I met the young Australian poet Liam Ferney.
I can’t remember now how cricket came up but it soon entered our conversation. Liam was talking about having seen the New Zealand cricket team practicing in Brisbane. He liked Stephen Fleming of the New Zealand batsmen. Liam had the task of introducing my session at Subverse 2001. He also had the task of picking my fellow colleagues and me up from the airport. It's nice to get a ride when you don't know where you're going.
When I was editing JAAM magazine, I published a cricket-related poem by Liam. It’s an unusual poem. It plays with history using baseball and cricket. Baseball star Babe Ruth has an epigraph at the start and with mythical cricket figures Don Bradman and Harold Larwood (from the Ashes’ Bodyline series) appearing as baseball players recreating history:


The Sultan of Swat

‘Why don’t you read the papers?
 It’s all right there in the papers.’
                                    — Babe Ruth

Waking, wiping the
sleep from his eye, he
reaches for his pills.
Reading the label on the bottle:
it seems to say:            
‘don’t try too hard just
             let it carry you’ –
             like… a river, he finishes,
                        the sentence and his pills.

It’s prescribed like this
because mythology inadvertently
gets mixed up in the games
of chinese whispers
                                    we play with our history.

Drunk on fairy floss and beer
the story they’re telling in
Sideshow Alley is that Don Bradman,
fulfilling a promise to a
terminally ill child,
points straight back over
            Larwood’s head at a spot
      somewhere in centre field.
Winding up Larwood
          gives it everything he’s got,
   to the screaming ecstasy and
spilt beer of the Chicago fans,
            but  even as the ball leaves his hand
      Bradman’s eyes are fixed upon it and,
                  with a flick of his wrist,
            he sends it soaring out of
                          Wrigley Field.

Larwood, sticky with humiliation,
imagines a ball rocketing into
the soft-flesh of the batsman’s
helmetless head as he walks
back to his mark.

Bradman, luxuriating in the profanities
and abuse he has evoked
watches an angry fan hurl a cup
of beer onto left field and spits
nonchalantly just missing the fielder
at short leg.

Larwood turns and Bradman, like
            a brave Achaen points back
      prophetically to the same spot.
    The bowler runs in like a fierce
       bull charging through the streets
  of Pamplona and digs it in short,
              a spear jagging up sharply,
    but our Achilles has wiser eyes than this
         stepping backward and away,
                        hooking awesomely
the ball
                seems to climb
to the sun.        
The news story is packaged thus:
The footage of the shot
from a variety of angles,
an interview with humble Bradman,
fans saying how he’s the greatest
the world has ever seen and
then the fadeout:
the small child smiling from
his hospital bed,
this miracle breaks hearts
for joy at dinner tables

A kid finds one of the balls out in the street.
He hides it away in a box,
and forgets about it for years
until one day, for no reason
     that he can name,
  he starts to take it out at nights
and let its elegant stitching
   take him back to the cutgrass
    summer twilight that now
seems so important.

It is a fact:
    The Bambino grows in deed and
    stature with every passing year.

Poem © Liam Ferney

Liam went on to publish his debut poetry collection, Popular Mechanics, through Interactive Publications in Brisbane, 2004. He appeared in Best Australian Poems 2010 and was editor of Cordite Poetry Review 17-23 in Melbourne and guest editor of issue 34.
Cricket historian Don Neely once commented to me that if it wasn’t for rounders which became baseball, cricket would’ve swept across America in the 19th century. This makes Liam’s poem even more interesting. The US played Canada in 1844, the first ever international cricket match at the St George’s Cricket Club, Bloomingdale Park, Manhattan.
Baseball became popular during the American Civil War and cricket waned. Americans have never really gotten the gist of cricket since that time though more Americans today play cricket thanks to Indian and Sri Lankan communities in America. NZ played Sri Lanka in a one-day series in Florida recently. In LA, the Compton Cricket Club (“the Homies and the Pops”) has a colourful history since the mid-90s. They have even released cricket rap singles. Check out their page on Wikipedia:
In Jan-Feb 2011, Compton Cricket Club will tour Australia, the first American cricket club to tour there.
There is now an American cricket magazine, American Cricketer, worth checking out as well:

Article © Mark Pirie 2010

(Sources: Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia; conversation with Don Neely; JAAM 15 (JAAM Publishing Collective, May 2001))

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dominion Post – Jack Perkins’s The Basin

The Basin Test petered out to a predictable draw on Wednesday evening with Pakistan not willing to push for victory. Fair enough, they had secured the series 1-0. NZ bowled two needless extra overs to make matters worse for frustrated spectators. A cricket law made play run till as the last hour started at so two overs were bowled to make play finish at .
Jack Perkins’s poem from A Tingling Catch appeared in The Dominion Post’s “Thursday Poem” page today. The poem is a fine poetic portrait of the Basin Reserve. The poem like this week’s game ends in a draw.


The Basin

Alchemy of sun, rain, grass and soil
the ground staff’s patient weeks of toil
will test two countries on a wicket
pampered by water and roller
prepared to be neither paradise
nor purgatory for batsman or bowler.

First morning of the Test Match sees
a flash of shiny red impact on green
and the ball like a rapier flick off the seam
to feather the edge and the catch is held
and so is the crowd by this eye-blink drama.
But – oh the surprise – the umpire’s finger
fails to rise.

Afternoon brings an easier pitch, the pace
more leisurely, measured by a century.
Looped between lunch and tea
the slow bowler’s web is finely spun
two batsmen ensnared for not many runs.

In the Long Room members watch players
enter and exit but recall a different cast
from earlier plays: Crowe’s majestic cut and hook
Sutcliffe’s grace or Hadlee’s record-breaking feat
all mixed with tonic or savoured neat.

The eastern bank’s bared-torso fans
toast boundaries and bouncers with cans
of beer and cheer women bravely parading
or salute a fieldsman’s diving save
arms upraised in Mexican wave.

A nor’wester gatecrashes the third day’s play
and dresses players in long-sleeved sweaters.
Into the bail-scattering gale
buffeted bowlers lean their shoulders.
Wind, gusting swirling twists their stride
balls misguided down leg side.

On the fifth, final day, the Test
proves no match for Wellington’s weather.
Curtains of rain, the stumps and the game
all drawn together.

January 2002

Poem © Jack Perkins 2009

(The poem was first published in Jack Perkins’s collection of blogs, Not Out! No Ball! Over!, Cricket Mystery, Wellington, 2009)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

David Mealing's Edible XI

Curator of the New Zealand Cricket Museum, David Mealing, gave me a number of thematic cricket XIs he has compiled. I'll share one with you today. The Second Test at the Basin Reserve, NZ v Pakistan, has just started and David will no doubt be busy receiving visitors to the New Zealand Cricket Museum where he is also selling A Tingling Catch. Get down to the Basin, visit the museum and buy a copy if you live in Wellington. They also have a bookstall selling cricket books outside the museum. David tells me it is the only national cricket museum in the world. Another first for Kiwiland.
Here's David's Edible XI using historical cricketing names with cooking connections:


Edible XI

Duff, Alan, Oxford, Worcestershire 1959-1968
Roebuck, Peter, Cambridge, Devon, Somerset, 1974-1991
Place, Winston, England, Lancashire - Test debut 1948, 1937-1955
Legge, Geoffrey, England, Kent - Tests 1927-30, 1924-1931
Lamb, Allan, England, Northants, OFS Western Province, 1972-1995
Martyn, Damien, Australia, Leicester, WA, Yorkshire, 1990/91-
Rice, Clive (capt), Scotland, SA, Natal. Notts, Transvaal 1969/70-1993/94
Mustard, Phil (wk), England, Durham 2002-2007
Onions, Graham, England, Durham 2004-
Hogg, Rodney, Australia, SA, Victoria 1975/76-1984/85
Berry, Les, Leicestershire, 1924-1951
Partridge, Reginald, Northamptonshire, 1929-1948

Woodcock, John (reporter), The Times 1954-1988, Wisden editor, 1981-1986
Hair, Darryl (umpire), 1992-06
Pepper, Cecil (umpire), NSW 1938/39-1950s
Brain, Brian, Gloucestershire, Minor Countries, Worcestershire, 1959-1981
Hazell, Horace, Somerset, 1929-1952
Garlick, Gordon, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, 1938-1950

© David Mealing

For those who might not know: 'duff' is a flour pudding; 'place' is plaice: a European flatfish; 'Martyn' is martin: a bird; 'roebuck' is a deer; 'hair' is a hare; 'woodcock' is an old game bird; 'legge' is a leg of meat; the others seem more obvious.
Thanks David

Thursday, January 13, 2011

John Sellwood’s NZ cricket story

When I was editing JAAM magazine I published a cricket short story by John Sellwood. Sellwood’s bio note stated: ‘John Sellwood, now in the UK, worked as a bus driver in Wellington and Auckland. Did Albert Wendt’s fiction writing course at Auckland University in 2000.’ The hard-drinking characters are representative of a younger generation of club cricketers in New Zealand. Beer culture is still very much a part of New Zealand cricket as Shane Bond noted in his recent book. This is a good Wellington story, a trip to the Stadium to watch the Black Caps play Pakistan who incidentally are also currently touring in reality. I’ll include it here for your interest:



They made a right bunch of chumps of themselves, let me tell you.  Not too surprising, I guess, but they outdid themselves on this occasion.  I met them, by chance, on the street in Newtown, a little after one.  They had evidently been on the turps to a large degree even at that point.  They looked like pillocks, dressed in their matching Kilbirnie Cricket Club tracksuits, chasing each other around the bus stop.  I could only get fits and starts out of them because they would keep interrupting to yell at passing female motorists, but I gathered they were on their way to the one-dayer.  Dave was the most coherent of the lot, and he told me that they had started soon after breakfast with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
That had lasted until lunch-time, which he thought was very poor going, so they had quickened the pace and polished off another half bottle of vodka.  By which time they considered themselves prepared to embark into decent society.  Dave reckoned that it was a pity it was so very hot because he was powerfully thirsty already, and they had neglected to bring any roadies.  I told him that the concession holders at the stadium would be mighty pleased to hear it.
Having got these bare bones from them a bus pulled up and I followed them on. They sat down in the middle of the bus and started discussing the last weekend’s social comings and goings.  It turned out, through some rather embarrassed admissions, that both Evan and Graham had been intimate with the same young lady, in the same evening mind you!  Now, I might have been persuaded to find this amusing, especially being acquainted with the said young lady and her dubious reputation, but they managed to evince quite enough hilarity for the whole bus, and I felt it prudent to keep mum, as I was already getting a fair treatment of the evil eye from some of the more matronly occupants.
 Their high spirits propelled us through the truncated rest of the ride.  As we were stopped at Cuba Mall a young girl dropped her bag and scattered the contents down the aisle, which the boys thought the height of comedy, but which the bus driver was more considerate about.  He got up and helped her pick her stuff up.  He asked the boys if they wouldn’t mind putting a cork in it.  Evan was not shy of suggesting that they were in fact the model of gentlemanly behaviour.  He made what I can only imagine he considered an eloquent defence, but it was much undercut by the stifled laughter of his companions.  I had to play peacemaker, and right quick because the bus driver had some unhealthy looking veins bulging on his not inconsiderable neck.  I ushered the boys off the bus before they got toes planted firmly up their backsides.
I was getting mighty sick of them by this stage and was going to explain that I had to see a man about a dog, when Dave put in that they had been given four passes to the game by KCC, and that one of them was unused due to Dave being unable to persuade Cherie to join them, and would I like to come.  Now men and dogs aside, I didn’t have a lot doing, and felt that the stadium might be as good a place as any to spend an afternoon, so I accepted, on the condition that they would walk to the stadium and eschew public transport and its many pitfalls.
Now you may wonder why I should wish to be seen in the middle of town accompanying three drunken louts.  Well, I figured that a quick stop would sober them up a little and make arrival at the stadium less of a trial than I envisioned.  But I hadn’t counted on the unslakeable thirst that my companions were labouring under.  We were only a couple hundred metres down the road before they insisted on popping into a trendy looking cafe.  But blow me down, they were the models of good behaviour!  Mind you, Graham did stare at the cleavage on display behind the bar the entire time he was being served and being unable to remove his gaze he almost spilt his beers on some poor patron as he returned to the table.  These self-same beers were dispatched with a  single-mindedness that I had not given the lads credit for hitherto.  And like that, we were out of there, leaving the cafe dwellers poorer for not having anyone to look down on.
At this point you might understand that I felt things were looking up.  The prospect of an afternoon and evening of cricket had me in expectant rapture.  I began discoursing on the unpalatable form of our national side and was soon embroiled in a deep discussion with Evan on the probability of match fixing occurring in our fair, free land.  Evan suggested that the Pakistanis were as bent as a dog’s back leg, only superseded in this distinction by the South Africans, who couldn’t even be trusted to cheat when they were supposed to.  This zephyr of conversation propelled us to the stadium front.
The boys were literally punching the air at having made it, not to mention each other, and, I worried for a time, possibly even the attendant.  But we got in and Graham went straight to the beer vendor, deep in the small intestine of the stadium.  We took seats at mid wicket, ten or so rows back, where Dave was sure we would catch a six.  There was no danger of that though, as the Pakistanis batted like a bunch of pie-bald peacocks.  With beer succeeding beer the boys had something to fix their minds upon, and were tolerable, if not rather loud, company.
Now, if you haven’t been to the stadium, you wouldn’t have beheld the glory of the electronic scoreboard.  State of the art and not half so bad to look at as the TV at home. During the break between overs they single out some raucous section of the crowd and give them a portion of their 15 minutes.  They all turn up looking surprised and pointing off screen at themselves on TV, by which you can triangulate the camera doing the filming. Some poor bloke skirting the boundary rope with fifty or sixty yobs shouting at him.  About the tenth over of the New Zealand innings Dave suggested we might like to go and get famous.  The other two were easily persuaded, but I said I would rather stay and keep their seats company.  They trotted off, and sure enough, the very next over, there they were, striking bodybuilder poses and making bunny ears.  But right at the peak of their exposure, an invisible little kid precipitously whipped Evan’s strides down, revealing his jalapeno pepper boxer shorts to a very appreciative audience, whose immediate laughter caused Evan to first blush deeply, then swear and lastly fall backwards over the seat trying to grab the offending urchin.  The kid showed a good turn of pace, but Evan was not to be made a fool of lightly, and hared off after the kid.
The excitement over and the game resuming, Dave and Graham wiped their eyes and returned to their seats.  We laughed and laughed and wondered how long Ev was going to chase the kid.  We thought we could see him right over the other side, slowly walking down one of the aisles.  But he didn’t come back in any kind of hurry, so after waiting half an hour we went in search of him.  We couldn’t see hide nor hair of him, but did find my old mate Tom Codwell.  I had no idea, but he was working as an attendant at the stadium.  We asked him if he had seen Evan, but no luck.  Tom rightly supposed that we might like a taste of the upper crust and suggested we take a look around the members stand, or the dress circle as he would have it.  We ascended the lofty escalators and entered the opulent member’s enclosure.
The toffs were stuck to the glass like Garfield toys.  They even clapped and whistled like ordinary people, just that they all remained seated.  We stood at the back and chatted, sipping on bourbon and Cokes from the ritzy bar.  Then, Graham, who had been suspiciously quiet, said that he thought that he had gone to school with one of the lasses in the front row, and was going to talk to her to find out.  He skulked down to the empty seat next to her and sat down.  Evidently he did know her because she actually talked to him.  She conversed pleasantly to him for some time.  Graham looked just as nervous as he could, constantly wiping his brow and jiggling his leg.
Now, they were positioned right in front of an open window, which looked down some twenty metres to the stands below.  Graham’s friend was gesturing out the window and Graham stood up and looked out over the edge.  He sat down uneasily, holding his stomach and looking downright pale.  And then sure enough he convulsed once, leant forward over the railing and let fly in monstrous profusion!  There was a shocked intake of breath from those seated near him, which led everybody else within sight to look at him.
Tom and I stood rooted to the spot, but Dave was on the ball.  He rushed down to Graham, getting there at the same time as another one of the attendants.  I could hear Dave assuring the attendant, a very serious looking young woman, that Graham was perfectly all right.  She seemed less than convinced.  Then came the cruncher.  She asked if he had his member’s pass, as he wasn’t wearing it like everyone else.  He looked up at us agitatedly.  I feigned innocence and looked around for Tom, who wasn’t there.  In fact he had disappeared so successfully that I couldn’t even see him.  When I looked back the attendant was already escorting Dave and Graham up the stairs.  They passed me and Dave grimaced.  He continued to protest their innocence, but the attendant simply asked for their tickets and led them down the escalators.  I waited until I saw her come back, then I went down and out the front gate.
There were Dave, Graham and Evan, the only people standing on the enormous field of concrete in front of the stadium.  As I got there Evan was in the process of telling his sordid tale.  Apparently he had found the kid after much searching and had laid hands on him.  He had then taken the miniature autograph bat the kid was holding and had administered a couple of slaps to the kid’s bare legs.  The kid had sent up such a horrible outcry that there was quickly a corps of concerned adults surrounding them.  One guy who had obviously seen the whole thing, had rushed off and got one of the ubiquitous attendants, and with his corroborating evidence added to the kids mournful sobs, Evan was duly ejected.  He said he had been sifting on the freezing concrete waiting for them for half an hour.  Dave then related their misadventure, with Graham adding his parts about the vertigo and the queasiness, and they all had a good laugh at each other, which I joined wholeheartedly.
Anyway, I felt that I had to do something for the poor lads, so I went and buttonholed one of the cabs waiting in the rank, and gave him a twenty to take the lads home post-haste.  They wished me a cheery goodbye, and I thanked them once again for a fine afternoon’s entertainment.  After I had watched them disappear down the ramp I went back inside and watched New Zealand wrap up the match with a six to mid-wicket, ten or so rows back.  And that was my day.  How ’bout yourself?

(Short story © John Sellwood, from JAAM 17 (May 2002): 144-148)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tim Jones's Poetry reads of 2010

Tim Jones named A Tingling Catch as a highlight of the year for Poetry on his blog entry "What I Read in 2010", 2 January 2011:

Poetry:The two books of poetry by individual authors I most enjoyed in 2010 were Jennifer Compton's collection Barefoot and Sappho: A Garland, translated and introduced by Jim Powell. Other favourite poetry collections for the year included Magnetic South by Sue Wootton, Spark by Emma Neale, and Ithaca Island Bay Leaves by Vana Manasiadis.

As for anthologies, cricket poetry anthology A Tingling Catch, edited by Mark Pirie, was a highlight of the year.

Here's the link:

Thanks Tim

A Tingling Catch mentioned on Cricket Web

Martin Chandler mentions A Tingling Catch on Cricket Web - "New Books: An Overview for December 2010", 26 December 2010. I'm pleased to get a mention here as the note at the bottom implies not every cricket book is picked up by their surveys. A further address suggests they may do reviews, so it could be worth my while sending them a copy. The link is:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Don Clarke as a cricketer

Rugby player Jeff Wilson is a well known recent example of the double international in New Zealand cricket. Some others were Eric Tindill, Martin Donnelly, Curly Page, Charlie Oliver and Brian McKechnie. Wilson, an All Black winger, after hanging up his rugby boots, returned to cricket and was a surprise selection in the 2005 one-day and 20/20 series against Australia. He had previously made a promising start to his international cricket career at age 19 in 1993 (scoring 44 not out off 28 balls against Australia) before opting for rugby.
In 2005, Wilson was again effective in the warm up tsunami relief series against a touring World XI (taking 3-6 in one match) but against the full strength Australian side at Eden Park he was carted for 43 runs off 4 overs in the only Twenty20 match. His last ODI game saw him take 1-68 off 9 overs. His lone wicket was that of Adam Gilchrist.
Another of those who played cricket and rugby is All Black fullback and rugby legend Don Clarke (1933-2002) known as “The Boot” for his goal kicking. Clarke never played international cricket in contrast to the others mentioned above.
When I was reading Richard Boock’s recent Sutcliffe biography, it reminded me again of Clarke’s cricket playing days. There’s a description of Clarke in the book by Graham Dowling: ‘[Clarke] was medium-fast; big and strong. He lumbered in and gave it plenty. His size gave the impression of lumbering, I suppose, but he was a pretty good provincial bowler.’ His First Class span was 1950/51-1962/63. Clarke bowled for Auckland and Northern Districts as a right arm medium-fast bowler. He took 117 wickets at a very good average of 21.14, including four five-fors and wicket haul.
At the end of his playing days, he left New Zealand in the 1970s for South Africa where he set up a tree-felling business. He died from cancer in 2002 at the age of 69.
Recently I came across a poem for Don Clarke. I’ll include it on the “Tingling Catch” archive. The epigram doesn’t specify rugby or cricket but is a nice tribute to the effect his status had on his fellow contemporaries, this time a poet:


Epitaph for Don Clarke

Mourn for a generation, ours
Its passing and its loss of powers.

Poem © F W N Wright

F W N (Nielsen) Wright or Niel Wright was born in 1933, the same year as Clarke, and wrote the epitaph after Don’s death in 2003. It appeared in his epic poem The Alexandrians. The author’s note at the end of the book states: ‘Don Clarke is my age. He was greatly distressed to find himself dying of cancer, having felt invincible. His heyday as a footballer was 1953-1964, dates that are highly significant I suspect for all his generational coevals (what statisticians so oddly call cohorts), certainly for me. My generation felt loss of powers in being pushed aside by the baby boom generation in the late 1960s and also now by death.’ It’s interesting that in New Zealand our sportsmen are seen as figureheads of their generations, defining people of a period in our culture and history. They represent the past as significant emblems, and their glittering playing careers can mirror the height of their generation's powers, an idea that recurs in some of the cricket poetry in A Tingling Catch when players are discussed and paid a tribute.

Article © Mark Pirie 2011

Sources: The Last Everyday Hero: The Bert Sutcliffe Story by Richard Boock (Longacre, 2010); Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack 2003; ESPN Cricinfo; and The Alexandrians: Day 198 by F W Nielsen Wright (Original Books, 2003).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

David McGill's extra cricket limerick

Earlier I posted a cricket limerick by well-known New Zealand writer David McGill. Here's another one I found from David McGill's Rude New Zealand Limericks:


Cricket Limerick

A stroppy fast bowler from Buller
Was advised by his coach to bowl fuller.
   He said, "That's not on,
   It's inviting a ton
From yer king-hit cutter or puller."

© David McGill 1999

(From David McGill's Rude New Zealand Limericks, Grantham House, Wellington, 2000)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tim Finn’s NZ cricket song Runs in the Family

One cricket song of note that doesn’t appear in A Tingling Catch is Tim Finn and the Record Partnership’s ‘Runs in the Family’.
Cast your minds back to 1995 and the 100th anniversary of the New Zealand Cricket Council. A one-day tournament was played featuring Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa. Given New Zealand’s run of losses at the time, it was termed ‘the birthday bash from hell’. Penned especially for the anniversary and tournament and maybe to give the Black Caps a boost, Tim Finn’s song climbed to No. 9 on the New Zealand single’s chart. Finn appeared on the Holmes show to promote the single’s release, and all looked bright.
Blair Mulholland, however, later included Tim’s song in his “Worst NZ Songs of All Time” on in 2004. Here’s the link: Blair notes that Finn’s ‘appalling NZ Cricket anthem Runs in the Family … can be number six. It sank even lower than the fortunes of the team in 1995, which was no mean feat really.’ On the second page of comments on Blair's post, one comment by SuperElmo defended the track: ‘Runs In The Family is ok. I remember the video for it.’ I can’t remember the video now myself, but if it had some cricket highlights in it, it was probably okay.
After all the dire predictions and Tim’s efforts, how did the New Zealand team fare in the tournament? The Black Caps surprisingly made the final after beating India and South Africa, largely due to the batting of Mark Greatbatch who had recently returned to the squad, skipper Ken Rutherford and a young Stephen Fleming. Martin Crowe played just one game before picking up an injury. Justin Vaughan, the current CEO of NZ Cricket, was also in the squad. Danny Morrison, Chris Cairns, Chris Pringle, Shane Thomson, Gavin Larsen and Vaughan were the bowling attack.
In the final Shane Warne took 2-21 and Tim May, his spin partner, took 3-19 to reduce the Black Caps to 137-9 at Eden Park. Rutherford made 46 and without Vaughan’s 20 not out, the total could’ve been lower. Captain Mark Taylor, Mark Waugh and David Boon knocked off the runs for Australia in the 32nd over.
Back to Tim Finn’s song, which is worth including on the “Tingling Catch” archive. I made a transcript of it. I admit I’m a fan of some of Finn’s music, particulary the Finn Brother’s album, Everyone is Here (2004), and some Split Enz tracks like ‘Dirty Creature’, ‘I See Red’ and ‘Poor Boy’ as well as Tim’s solo songs like ‘Persuasion’ co-written with English musician Richard Thompson. Tim’s songs for the most part are worth commenting on. The opening stanza of ‘Runs in the Family’ for instance features beach cricket, a Kiwi tradition at holiday baches during summer time:

Runs in the Family

I remember long ago playing
cricket by the sea
My father’s love of grace and skill
still runs in the family
Leather ball and willow bat
the scene of generation’s come
Pay your dues and show respect:
runs in the family

I like Tim’s idea here of a generational tradition in New Zealand, passed down through families, and that’s how some of our best cricketers have been taught. In these opening lines Tim acknowledges his father Richard. Around that time, Joseph Romanos wrote a book called Great New Zealand Cricket Families (1992). In the book Joseph discusses among others: the Hadlee family, the Cairns family, the Crowe family and the Bracewell family - to which you could now add the McCullum family.
Tim’s chorus that follows the opening verse is simple enough, a repeated refrain of ‘Runs in the family’, sung about four times. Overall, I guess it has that anthemic quality, and I can see how SuperElmo thought it was okay to some extent. The single’s not bad in places.
The bit that jarred for me was the attempt to mix in some hip-hop and ragamuffin. Here’s that rap lyric part from the guest performer:

100 years run in the family
watch me now, don’t play Mr Hadlee
Rutherford, Greatbatch, Morrison, Crowe
Coney, Wright, Patel and Jones
broad to the bat is the stylee
wickets and cricket and feeling irie
googly, bouncer, yorker and leg-break
from Eden Park to Kingston, Jamaica


What’s odd here is that some of the players named were not in the New Zealand team playing the centenary tournament. Except for ‘Greatbatch, Morrison, Crowe’, the others were no longer in the Black Caps. And the West Indies weren’t at the tournament either, making you wonder why they chose a ragamuffin part for the song. I’m not sure when the song was written in 1994, maybe they thought the Windies were coming and some of these players were still playing, but when it was released, it was those little bits that tended to lessen the impact of the song. Were they using the names of greats like ‘Hadlee’, ‘Coney’ and ‘Wright’ to sell the song? Or were they there to give us a sense of the history of the game. If so, why not Sutcliffe and Reid? The only interesting thing in the rap part was throwing in the word ‘Aotearoa!’ at the end.
I guess that’s why I left it out of A Tingling Catch, though I do like Tim’s opening stanza and the beach cricket idea acknowledging his father very much.

Article © Mark Pirie 2011

Sources: Runs in the Family by Tim Finn and the Record Partnership (cassette single, Epic, 1995); Tim Finn, A Timeline (2009): A Solo, And Sometimes Solitary, Man by Graham Reid, Elsewhere website, 2009; Great New Zealand Cricket Families by Joseph Romanos (Random House, Auckland, 1992); Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia; ESPN Cricinfo Archive; and Worst NZ Songs of All Time by Blair Mulholland,, 2004.

Theatre review - Jonny Brugh's The Second Test

I went along to The Second Test, Jonny Brugh’s excellent one-man play the week before Christmas. Madeleine Marie Slavick, who also went, emailed me her own review of the play. I’ll include it here as part of the “Tingling Catch” blog archive of cricket-related material:


The One Man Test

Review of Jonny Brugh’s ‘The Second Test’, Circa Theatre,
Wellington, 7-23 December 2010

‘Courage is always original’ said Wittgenstein, and Jonny Brugh is originality, wit and versatility in The Second Test, a one-man show in which he performs as about fifteen individuals: Cricketer Bob Blair, 19-year-old Nerissa Love and her grandmother, several members of the 1953/54 New Zealand Cricket team on a ship and on the Johannesburg grounds, the then Prime Minister Sidney Holland; and over in apartheid-run South Africa, Brugh becomes an Afrikaans broadcaster, a racist assistant, and the fiercely fast and unsportsmanlike bowler Neil Adcock.
‘What are you doing here’ is asked throughout, sometimes with ‘hell’. Why play cricket, why do you love me, why wake me up in the middle of the night, why can he get away with almost ripping off my ear, why do we need to shake his hand in the rain, why do I need to bat a six to prove that I love you and why are you dead?
On the stage: a four-foot-high mock radio, a wooden chair, hat, bat, lectern, and Brugh, increasingly sweaty through the eighty minutes of the drama, especially under his right arm.
I love the peripheries of sound. In the way the Ellis Park audience, still full of goodwill on that Boxing Day, is heard, then not heard. The way Brugh creates a strong male ‘hah’ laugh that is not a laugh but an affirmation and a bit of bravado. Brugh also sounds a camera click, the rolling down of a wet car window, the kiss, and the cricket bat pecking its centre placement in the crease.
The details make us laugh. Red balls landing in open sea. ‘Whose blood is that?’ a young player asks, at bat. ‘And whose is that?’ The team is given six pairs of socks – among other cricket basics – before that pre-Christmas journey, six weeks across sea. In Melbourne, two weeks into the ride, Blair and Love (well, Brugh and Brugh) talk on the telephone about their wedding and snorkling. An hour or so before the Wellington-Auckland train, Love listens to the first test on the radio, courtesy of telegraph technology, waiting, all of her waiting, for her six.
The image, seen, unseen. There is footage of Table Mountain, the remains of the train at Tangiwai, the famous white cotton around Bert Sutcliffe’s head, the inside of which is soothed by a few glasses of necessary whiskey. What is not projected on the Circa screen is Blair travelling to the pitch through the tunnel, also famous.
Sometimes only the body can speak. When Blair hears the news of Love’s death, he wants to be in Petone, where the Blair and Love families live, but Petone is six sea-weeks away. Stuck, distraught, he then needs solace, and several hours of tea. When courage can come, his body wants to be ‘useful’, so he walks unannounced through that tunnel and into Ellis Park, where he and Sutcliffe can cry, unashamed. As New Zealand teammates in the pavilion, though unable to meet each other’s eye. As many in the South African and international audience. The love in this test goes beyond the Blair-Love to the whole glory of sport, which urges us to be our most courageous and most vulnerable, our most spontaneous and most original.
As a release, at the end of the evening, we see the New Zealand team lighter, together, in one pool, swimming. Maybe all of us ready, for other kinds of tests.

Review © Madeleine Marie Slavick

Madeleine Marie Slavick, an author based in Wellington, attended the 14 December 2010 performance of The Second Test. A teenage athlete of basketball and baseball/softball, she came to the game of cricket through Mark Pirie’s book, A Tingling Catch, which collects poetry and song from about 150 years of the game
Sources: ‘What Are You Doing Out Here’ (2010) by Norman Harris, and conversations with David Mealing, curator of the
New Zealand Cricket Museum. This article is forthcoming in the Museum newsletter.

Jonny Brugh's The Second Test, Circa Theatre,
7-23 December 2010

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Don Neely in the New Years Honours list

In the New Years Honours list announced yesterday, I was pleased to see Don Neely's name. Don received the MNZM for services to cricket.
I'd like to congratulate Don on his latest achievement. Don had previously received an MBE.
In 2010, Don published an amazing cricket book, The First 50 Tests, to commemorate the first 50 Tests played at the Basin Reserve, Wellington. Financed largely by fund-raising, Don printed six thousand copies which were given away mostly to school cricket teams in Wellington and some around the country and to ticket holders at the Basin Test against Australia last March. Tim Jones reported being in a long queue at the Basin when he waited to pick up his copy.
The book is another of Don's extraordinary achievements for cricket in New Zealand. The Scoreboard at the Basin is named after him.
Don is a former Wellington captain and national selector and was the previous President of New Zealand Cricket.
In 1986, Don published his definitive history of New Zealand Test cricket, Men in White, co-authored with Richard King and statistician Francis Payne.
With his wife, Paddianne Neely, he co-authored, The Summer Game: An Illustrated History of New Zealand Cricket. His other work includes 100 Summers, a history of Wellington cricket, and editing the DB Cricket Annual series.
My own cricket anthology, A Tingling Catch, wouldn't have been possible without Don's involvement, including his foreword contribution and help with launching the book at the Basin Reserve Long Room last October.
Thanks Don for all you do for New Zealand cricket.

See my related blog post from last year 'A Tingling Catch launched at the Basin'

A Tingling Catch contributor Harvey McQueen dies

My friend, the well-known poet/educationalist/anthologist Harvey McQueen, a contributor and adviser to A Tingling Catch and a HeadworX author, sadly passed away on 25 December 2010. I’d like to offer my condolences to his partner Anne Else as well as his family and friends.
I attended a small private service for him at the Main Chapel, Karori Crematorium on Friday 31 December 2010. A public memorial service was held on Friday 28 January 2011 at Old St Paul's, Mulgrave Street, Wellington. Ian Wedde, myself, Vincent O'Sullivan and Roger Robinson spoke on Harvey's literary career at the service.
In lieu of flowers, you are invited to make a donation to the Harvey McQueen Memorial Fund, to foster children's appreciation of New Zealand's birds through Zealandia. Donations may be posted to Zealandia, PO Box 9267, Marion Square, Wellington 6141.
Harvey wrote a blog "Stoat Spring" and was an active member of the New Zealand literary blog community. All who’ve followed his blog over the past few years will feel the loss of his presence. Harvey was also the co-editor with Ian Wedde of The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, the memoirs The Ninth Floor and This Piece of Earth, and seven poetry collections, including Goya Rules (HeadworX, 2010). I interviewed and featured Harvey in my poetry journal, broadsheet, issue no. 5, May 2010.
I’d like to post Harvey’s poem from A Tingling Catch in memory of him.


From Akaroa DHS

i First Day

In winning their war, all my adults counselled certitude
though perilous the outcome from those massive field guns
until strung up to view was a mistress & her Mussolini.

My stepfather, who’d slogged from Cairo to Trieste,
swore fluent & rolled his own as only a soldier could & should
& his wife, my mother,
anxiously signed me up for the third form.

Being small –
thirty-five the roll –
‘your son won’t come to any harm’
& ‘Sticky’ Arnold strolled out to the clustered strangers
suggesting they leave untouched this uncounted one.

Despite my plea(s)
they gave me the neglect of a horse trough dribble
the other new boys received a headfirst dunking
in front of the admiring girls.

Inside – at a test, unthinking, I got them all right.
Someone said ‘skite’
& for revenge
at lunchtime caught & bowled me spin first ball
whereupon I went out to field cicadas on the boundary.

Poem © Harvey McQueen

Harvey McQueen
(HeadworX publicity photo)

See my blog post from October last year, ‘Harvey McQueen’s These I Have Loved’, on Harvey’s last poetry anthology, These I Have Loved: My Favourite New Zealand Poems, published by Steele Roberts.

These I Have Loved:
My Favourite New Zealand Poems
edited by Harvey McQueen
(Steele Roberts, 2010)

Summer Reads: Shane Bond: Looking Back

Review by Mark Pirie of Shane Bond: Looking Back with Dylan Cleaver, Hodder Moa, 2010, RRP $44.99. Foreword by Sir Richard Hadlee.

I remember Shane Bond’s absence during the 2003/04 season. On Saturday’s, my club teammates were often wondering when Shane Bond would return to the Black Caps. Someone said, “He’ll never be back, it’s a seriously bad injury. He’s the best bowler we’ve had since Richard Hadlee, but, sadly, I think we may have seen the last of him.”
He did come back briefly but broke down again on the 2004 tour to England. Back then, I started thinking we’d never see him again at international level. When Shane Bond did return and then see out his playing career at 35 in the 2009/10 season, I was impressed.
For Shane to make a comeback like that after a serious injury (as well as being ruled out of international play for two seasons because of a barely known ICC technicality) there must’ve been something exceptional driving him. I bought a copy of his book at Christmas time, thinking I’d get a better insight into Shane through his own words.
As expected, Shane’s autobiography written with leading sports journalist Dylan Cleaver is a straight-talking affair with plenty to get off his chest about the ICL debacle, and his list of injuries. You get the sense Shane wants to put matters right with the New Zealand public after his misrepresentation at times in the New Zealand sports media and on talkback radio.
Like his bowling, Shane doesn’t hold back, and does set things straight. He doesn’t bowl many beamers either and hits the seam often enough to make it interesting for the reader. There’s also a whole chapter devoted to critiquing the Leading Teams concept of player review and discussion. Contrast this with the recently released biography of Sutcliffe’s playing days in the 1950s/60s and you realise the dilemmas of the modern game – much more team analysis. These days, a lot more money and revenue are at stake. This all leads as Shane points out to occasionally rash selection choices, early player retirements and the harsh axing of players.
The best bits for me, however, are not about player contracts and team management tactics or disputes. Shane gets his words whizzing round like his best balls when he talks about his playing days: there are the overseas tours as well as his Test debut against Australia and the VB One-Day series of 2001/02. That was a great season of cricket. This was the series when Shane cleaned out Adam Gilchrist with his trademark in-swinging yorker.
I was at the MCG then when New Zealand was top of the VB series table. Unfortunately, the day I was there they lost to Australia after a blinder from Michael Bevan. Bevan became a New Zealand nemesis who helped defeat them again at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa after Bond had taken 6-23 off 10 overs to rip out their top and middle orders. There’s nothing here, however, about Shane scoring his only First Class century for Canterbury vs ND, 2004/05 season. Maybe the circumstances around that century weren’t interesting enough to report.
The chapter about Shane’s back puts his injuries in perspective and his frustrations while sidelined from the game. You get brief interjections in each chapter with players and teammates of Shane adding their bit in little snippets like a documentary film. There’s comments from Stephen Fleming, Dan Vettori, Craig McMillan, Geoff Allott, Adam Gilchrist, Heath Mills, Martin Snedden as well as Shane’s manager Leanne McGoldrick and his own family.
Looking Back, however, is painful to read at times. There’s almost too much information given and unnecessary management decisions seem to have been made concerning Bond’s injuries and international availability. You can’t help feeling for Shane. The writing’s not flash to read but has important things to say. Still, there’s plenty here to admire, some good match photos, and it’s those wicket taking deliveries from his playing days rather than the politics that will live with you.
Shane’s overall bowling stats are very impressive. Sir Richard Hadlee provides a nice foreword, and that says a lot about Shane’s standing as one of New Zealand’s premier fast bowlers.

Review © Mark Pirie 2011

Shane Bond: Looking Back
with Dylan Cleaver
(Hodder Moa, 2010)