Flat White

Trevor Goddard: the end of a grand innings

8 December 2016

1:28 PM

8 December 2016

1:28 PM

Goddards CenturyWhen stumps were drawn at the Wanderers on January 26th, 1965 the Springbok captain, Trevor Goddard, was 11 runs shy of his long awaited Test century in the battle against England.

On three other occasions Goddard had made it into the nineties, including being given out, on 99, at the Oval, in 1960, when Colin Cowdrey held a controversial, disputed slips catch.

So South Africans held their breath that their much respected skipper would finally prevail. ‘You can, you must, you will’ was the message on the South African Rugby telegram.

He did.

The next day he moved to 112 before being dismissed and it would be his only century in 41 Tests, (13 as captain), from 1955-70.

Having made 18 half centuries in Tests and 26 centuries in first class cricket (222 being his highest score) it was perhaps puzzling why this fine opening batsman did not get more Test centuries, particularly as he had 18 half centuries, or better, scores. One possibility is that he suffered from sinusitis that produced a nagging pain behind his eyes which sapped his mental energy and steely concentration. He also had more to his bow than just being a batsman. He was also a fine medium pace bowler and close-to- the wicket fielder, notably in gully and short leg.

In the 1966-67, having come out of temporary retirement, he was the best bowler on either side in a series that saw South Africa beat Australia for the first time 3-1, with one draw.

In the fifth and final Test that clinched the rubber for the Springboks his 74 and 59 was the foundation stone of that third historic victory.

Under the captaincy of Peter van der Merwe, his successor and the first Afrikaner to lead the national side, Goddard recorded his best ever series performance as a bowler, claiming 26 wickets at 16.23 runs per wicket – the best of any bowler in his own side, including, Mike Proctor, Peter Pollock, Eddie Barlow and the like — and also superior to Australia’s best, Graham McKenzie. After the First test he was carried from the ground, by the crowd, after what would be a career best of 6/53 … and bowling the Boks to their first Test match win on home soil against the Aussies.

Goddard’s career effort of 123 Test wickets came at the rate of 1.64 runs per over, making him the most economical bowler of all, among those with 75 wickets or more.

With keeper-batsman, Denis Lindsay, the dynamo of the series with the bat (606 runs at 86.57) the dynamic duo were the heroes of that summer.

I cannot claim objectivity about Trevor. I first remember him in a match at the WACA between South Africa and WA in the summer of 1963 when I was an impressionable schoolboy. He made a distinct impression because of his calmness, decency and quiet authority as the leader and senior player in what was the start of Springbok power over the next seven years.

I was not alone in that opinion as Sir Donald Bradman described him thus: ‘His qualities of sincerity and integrity are part of his very being and of his play as well.’

Describing him as one of the best-loved and most respected captains to come to Australia, Bradman said, ‘‘I did not hear a single derogatory word spoken about him by anyone right throughout the tour” and further, “he enriched the game.”

The five Test series produced a 1-1 result with SA having the best of the three drawn matches. He averaged in the mid-sixties in that series, with the bat, and had a six debutants to develop.

That series and the subsequent one in South Africa, in 1966-7, were followed closely by this writer and in 1970 I decided to see the Springboks, again at home, do battle with Australia in the first three Tests.

It would prove to be the last series SA would play for over 20 years. For Goddard it was always going to be his ‘last hurrah’ as he advanced on his 39th year.

The day after the second Test concluded at Durban, where SA had crushed Australia again, after an avalanche of runs from Graeme Pollock – 274 — and Barry Richards – 140 — I decided to seek out the elder statesman of the side.

He was the Sports Director at Natal University and I simply went there hoping he was in and to talk to him for a few minutes. The talk lasted half a day and included taking in the sights of Pietermaritzburg with his wife, Jean, also in our company.

Goddard didn’t have to do that –he had been a major international player for 15 years and at that twilight stage of an illustrious career. It was ample demonstration of his decency and humility towards a young stranger from the other side of the Indian Ocean.

In the third Test Goddard took the final three wickets to fall which meant, of course he bowed out of cricket claiming a wicket with his last ball when Australia’s Alan Connolly was caught in the deep by Barry Richards.

While another crushing would await Australia in the fourth and final Test at Port Elizabeth the South African selectors decided to pull stumps, with the series in the bag, on Trevor’s career. They thought it was appropriate to ‘blood’ another player for what they thought would be the forthcoming tour of England.

The next day The Rand Daily Mail, with a banner back page headline, summed it up: ‘Goddard’s Great Exit.’

So Goddard’s Cinderellas of 1963 were now, seven years later, the powerhouse of world cricket with Ali Bacher, at the helm, enjoying the fruits of Goddard’s early labours as captain.

A few days later he played for Natal v Australia – and he scored 70 and 36. As he left the crease after being dismissed, Australian captain Bill Lawry called his team together and they, and the small crowd, gave Trevor a standing ovation, until he disappeared from sight. A month later in his last first class match, against Rhodesia in Salisbury, in the Currie Cup competition, he claimed a hat-trick and led Natal to victory.

Fourteen years later I read in The West Australian where Pastor Trevor Goddard was coming to Australia for the South Australian Cricket Association’s Centenary celebrations. He was one of many great captains to be invited but the only living South African that had led a side to success on the Adelaide Oval.

Determined to repay him for his kindness to me I wrote to him and invited Jean and he to stay with my wife, Georgie, and myself in our York home, in Western Australia’s oldest inland town. He accepted.

His visit to Australia this time was clearly different. He came as a committed Christian and was accompanied by his second wife Lesley (since December 27th, 1978) –Jean having died of cancer on September 8th, 1975.

He brought to his faith the same quiet intensity of his cricket. Nothing flashy or pushy just a desire to do his best and encourage others.

He mentioned this in his book, Caught in the Deep (1988), his enjoyment in having the opportunity, on a warm November night, to enjoy the hospitality of people in York in 1984.

The title is a great one because his last wicket in a Test match was, as described, ended the match by having the last Australian batsman caught in the deep but more importantly because he was ‘deep in the mire,’ with concerns about life and meaning.

He had lost a brother before leading the Springboks to Australia in 1963, the last time a South African side would be seen here for 31 years. He also, as captain, had to tell Peter Carlstein, (who later moved to Perth), during the New Zealand leg of the tour that his wife and three young children had been killed in a car crash back in South Africa. The pair walked and talked for hours.

Goddard had to go through that pain when his own wife lay dying five years after they both became committed Christians.

On that occasion, distraught, he rang Mike Attlee a long-time friend and church minister. At one stage Attlee asked him how many Tests he had played. Goddard, not unnaturally, said he wasn’t bothered about talking cricket at that stage. Attlee persisted and got the answer –“41.”

“Well 42 is going to be your greatest. You see Trevor you have testified all round the country that Jesus is the answer and they will watch you to see if he really is,” Attlee said.

Within three years he was a Christian minister (as is his son, Chris) and he re-married, to Lesley, a widow. She had lost her first husband and also an infant daughter, Lindy, ironically the name of Trevor’s daughter.

On December 3rd, 1985 he was lucky to survive a car crash when he left the road at Graaff-Reinet on a long drive from his home, on church business.

In February 1986 I stayed with Trevor and Lesley, in East London, and he was recovering from injuries sustained in that accident. He was still on crutches and so it was a period for reflection and book writing.

Reading his book, was like having a conversation with him. The sincerity is obvious in relating the pains, uncertainty and pleasure in his commitment to his faith. He loved schools and roaming evangelism work in general.

He had the ability to be able to communicate with all ages. I remember him, in February 1994, coaching my nine year old son in the appropriate batting grip. (Ironically I did the same, a month later, with a young Afrikaner boy at a resort called The Shoe in Ohrigstad, Transvaal).

When he left our home he inscribed my book, The Trevor Goddard Story (by Graham Short), with the words ‘In His Grip.’

Trevor had the ability of not offending people while delivering a message. He planted a seed with ex-teammate Peter Pollock and the fast bowler too eventually became a minister. He also gave great comfort, at a church service in York, to a cancer sufferer, Les Allen, when he spoke about the Valley of Baca, from the Book of Psalms.

My experience, before that message, was of the ‘Valley of Bacher,’ because of an earlier talk, on the March 4 1986, with Ali Bacher, (the former Springbok captain and by then, a leading cricket administrator), about the plight of South African cricket. At that stage South African cricket was experiencing its own ‘Valley of Baca’ depression, with only rebel tours being experienced and little hope of a return to Test cricket. Yet, exactly eight years later, to the day, Australia returned to play the Proteas, in South Africa.

In his last couple of years Trevor’s illness led him to retreat to his daughter’s beautiful holiday farm stay, in the Free State.

He passed away quietly on Friday night the 25th November 2016, aged 85, the last member of the 1955 Boks side.

When I heard the news I wondered whether his reception ‘on the other side’ would have been so quiet.

There may well have been another standing ovation for the man with God in his name and heart.

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