Pairaudeau: Losing To NZ

Richard Boock
Date published: 
NZ Herald

The Brynderwyn Hills will always hold a special place in the heart of former West Indian batsman Bruce Pairaudeau. The man who scored a Test century on debut against India in 1953 was a part of the West Indian touring team three years later - and on the wrong side of New Zealand's maiden Test win, after 26 years and 45 failed attempts.

Pairaudeau, 74 next month, was raised and educated in British Guiana, emigrated to New Zealand after fulfilling his childhood dream of touring England in 1957, and played for several years for Northern Districts. He still lives in Hamilton. He says he still smiles at the memory of those dramatic hours at Eden Park 50 years ago, when New Zealand rolled his West Indies side for just 77 in the second innings, to end what is still the longest winless Test streak.

Pairaudeau, who today meets up with members of New Zealand's victorious 1956 team and others from the 1965 and 1971-72 sides for a series of reunions, said the West Indies team was treated to a "fabulous" celebration that famous day, erasing any hint of serious disappointment.

"I can remember heading for Whangarei afterwards, and stopping at the top of the Brynderwyns half-shot. We all got out to relieve ourselves and we were laughing at how, had we not lost that day, we wouldn't have been party to this magnificent celebration. If we'd actually won, it wouldn't have been half as good. Whenever I go over the Brynderwyns, I still smile at the memory of the slurred voices and laughter."

Pairaudeau said that in 1956, possibly because of fresh memories of the war years and genuine hardship, the idea of being New Zealand's first Test victim was not as ignominious as it sounds today. "In those days," he said, "if you lost a Test match it wasn't the end of the world. It's almost seen as unacceptable now; if you lose you get your throat cut. To us, it didn't really matter that we'd lost. It was just bad luck, no big deal - it was a game. I don't know when it started becoming something else."

Pairaudeau, claiming to be one of only three "Frenchmen" to have played Test cricket (the others are Richie Benaud and fellow West Indian Andy Ganteaume) said the West Indies deserved their devil-may-care reputation and always made a point of enjoying their cricket. The first Test in 1956, in Dunedin, was a case in point.

"I was out to the first ball. I came back inside and [Everton] Weekes was walking through the dressing-room. He said, 'Bruce, you'd better hurry up, I think the umpires are out there'. When I just stared at him, he said: 'You've been in already? Hell, you fellas don't give us much time to pad up, do you?'

"Another time, Weekes congratulated me on scoring what he said was the most stroke-laden duck he'd ever seen. Frankie Worrell was a great prankster and I can remember John Goddard often pleading with him to keep quiet."

"Goddard decided on another occasion that we should be all in bed by 10.30pm. He said we needed to get more serious because we were playing the MCC. "Weekes asked: 'Whose bed, skipper?'. The captain replied: 'Come on, Everton, we're trying to be serious here'. Weekes said: 'All right, all right, I'll be in bed by 10.30pm - but I won't make any promises about whose bed'."

Pairaudeau had three main ambitions: to score enough hundreds to be picked for the West Indies, to score a Test century for them and to tour England. As soon as he fulfilled that final goal, he booked his ticket for New Zealand and packed his bags.

The main reason was the worsening political situation in Guyana. Pairaudeau recalls the constitution being suspended in 1953, the day his team was supposed to be playing a match against Trinidad.

"In 1955-56 we came here, and then we were going to tour England. In Guyana the troubles were getting worse but I hadn't told anyone I was heading for New Zealand. I'd booked my tickets before anybody found out ... They said: 'You're joking', and I replied: 'No. Here's the bloody ticket'. They said I was mad. I recall saying, 'I'm not mad', and 'You'll all have to get out before long. I'll give you 10 years and you'll all be gone'. Within five years Georgetown was set ablaze. There was awful trouble."

"I'd been to England and played league cricket there. I'd been to New Zealand and I was quite happy to make the decision when I did."

Another vivid memory of the 1956 Test for Pairaudeau was the Eden Park crowd, as it became ever more apparent New Zealand were heading towards a watershed moment. "There were only about 1000 people there, maybe 1500 on the morning of that final day," he said. "But when it suddenly became apparent that New Zealand had a shot of winning, there was a huge influx of people. We seemed to be playing in front of about 10,000 in the end.

"They were all turning up for the kill. I remember having a bit of a smile and a laugh to myself."