Originally posted on DV Mace’s Smorgasbord of Sport, 21-Sept-2014.
Greg Loveridge only played one Test for New Zealand – but that was more than enough to install himself as a permanent cricketing trivia answer.
The question? “Name the Test leg spinner who never bowled.”
Loveridge sustained a broken finger facing Henry Olonga in the first innings, ruling him out of the rest of the game. But that’s remained all he is remembered as.
Now NZ General Manager of Robt. Jones Holdings, basing himself in Auckland, Loveridge has had an eventful life, even though he’s still yet to hit 40. He’s worked for the Labour Party, taught in the Himalayas, studied at Cambridge (Bachelor of Arts with honours in History), worked for the KiwiCan charity, and is now running the day to day operations of one of this nation’s biggest companies. Not a bad record.
I asked him half a dozen questions on the cricketing aspect of his life
1. Although you played one Test, and for Central Districts in the Plunket Shield, would you regard you time with Cambridge University in the late 1990s as the highest point in your career, especially the University Matches in ‘98 and ‘99?
Greg Loveridge: No. The varsity matches are a great experience but the level of cricket is not great. Cambridge in general, as an academic and social experience was one of the highlights of my life. I love playing cricket in that atmosphere, and moreover I loved batting on English pitches which were much truer than the green wickets NZ Cricket were trying to produce at the time. In terms of bowling I was at my best at 20, in terms of batting my best season was playing in Cape Town as a 26/27 year old.
2. Do you believe you should have had more opportunity in international cricket? Being chucked out after one Test that (as we all know) you couldn’t bowl in, at the age of 21, seems very harsh.
GL: No, I got chucked out because the NZ cricket academy made me change my action and I never got it back. They set back an entire generation of NZ cricketers with a ridiculous, conformist Australian idolising way of coaching. Maybe I might have made it back as a batting all rounder later in life, but the life of fringe test player (if I had even got that far) is not great once you are in your 30’s. You have to move on into real life at some time.
3. You made your debut about 12 months before Daniel Vettori, who made an immediate permanent claim to the NZ spinning role. How far ahead of all his Kiwi spinning peers was Vettori in those days, and has he remained as superior?
GL: We all know how good he was. Having spent a lot of time overseas and retiring early I didn’t play with him, but his stubbornness and competitiveness, and the respect he engenders from other players pretty much sum him up. There was no one else around at his level, although there were a good group of First class spinners around like Campell Furlong.
4. You had an awful run with serious injuries, you had your action changed by Terry Jenner, and ended up somewhat alienated by the NZC setup. How much of an impact did Jenner in particular have on your career, and what was the final straw that made you give the game away so early?
GL: As above. Jenner believed everyone should be like Warne. I remember a particular argument when he told me Kumble was a rubbish bowler. He cleaned up the Australians the next day. Re my career, I dislocated my shoulder in the first game of the season for CD and couldn’t bowl the rest of the year, got no runs and thought it was time to move on to other things. I went off and taught at a school in the Himalayas. Cricket cannot be all there is in life.
5. Would you have enjoyed playing your career in today’s age, rather than a decade and a half ago? With the way spinners have really taken the Limited Overs world by storm the last couple of years, and with your all-round ability, would you have been successful in today’s game?
GL: I would have enjoyed the pitches which they changed to be batter friendly 6/7 years ago. I would like to think I would have done well in 20/20 but I never watch it, preferring Test cricket.
6. To finish off, who do you hold the biggest grudge against: Henry Olonga or New Zealand Cricket?
GL: No grudge against either. I’m lucky that I have had success doing other things in life and even bad experiences like the academy create outcomes which are good. I wouldn’t have gone to Cambridge without that, which would have meant I wouldn’t have met my wife, or have my lovely kids!