Romanos: Let's hear it for sport's unsung heroes

18:06, Jan 07 2014
Jesse Ryder
HARD HITTING: Jesse Ryder in full flight during his century for New Zealand against the West Indies on New Year’s Day in Queenstown.

Jesse Ryder played one of the most memorable innings in cricket history in Queenstown last week, but was totally overshadowed in the post-match reports.

In the rain-shortened one-day international against the West Indies, Ryder belted 104 off 51 balls, reaching his century off just 46 deliveries. It was the sixth-fastest century in 3450 one-day internationals.

Considering Ryder was in the early stages of a much-publicised comeback to international cricket, you'd have thought he would have dominated the front pages.

Instead, almost all the publicity went to Corey Anderson, who was even more brutal, reaching his century in a world record 36 balls. Anderson smashed 14 sixes and six fours in his unbeaten 131, a once-in-a-lifetime innings.

Anderson and Ryder added 191 in 12 overs. Has there ever been such a period of sustained attack from two batsmen?

Anyway, Ryder's effort, and the way it was eclipsed, got me thinking about other New Zealand sports stars who didn't get the recognition they deserved because of someone else's brilliance.

The prime example is John Davies at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Davies won the bronze medal in the blue riband 1500m, but rated only a passing mention because the gold went to Peter Snell, who thus completed the 800m-1500m double in Tokyo.

The same sort of thing happened in the 1996 Olympics equestrian competition, when Blyth Tait won the gold medal in the individual three-day eventing.

Tait, riding Ready Teddy, gave a really funny press conference afterwards and was lauded by sports journalists from around the world. Lost in it all was the silver medallist, New Zealander Sally Clark, riding Squirrel Hill.

Normally Bevan Docherty would have been the toast of New Zealand after his silver-medal performance in the 2004 Athens Olympic triathlon.

Docherty, then the world champion, did earn plenty of praise but his feat paled because his New Zealand team-mate, Hamish Carter, won the gold in exhilarating fashion.

John Walker burst into prominence at the Christchurch Commonwealth Games when he ran the 1500m final in 3min 32.52sec, which smashed American Jim Ryun's world record of 3:33.1.

The only trouble for Walker was that on that famous day in Christchurch, Tanzanian Filbert Bayi turned on the greatest display of front-running imaginable and won in 3:32.16, claiming the world record, the gold medal and most of the headlines.

In sport, timing is everything.

At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Englishman David Hemery obliterated the world record in the 400m hurdles final, winning in 48.12sec.

Celebrated BBC commentator David Coleman rejoiced in Hemery's victory and then declared flippantly as a throwaway line: "Who cares who's third!"

He didn't realise the bronze medal had gone to Hemery's British team-mate John Sherwood.

It reminds me of a story great Australian opening batsman Arthur Morris told me about batting in a test at the Oval in 1948.

That was the match in which Don Bradman signed off his storied career with a second-ball duck, the most talked-about duck in history.

"People often ask me if I played in that match," said Morris. "I usually have a chuckle and tell them I was at the other end. I got 196 in that innings, not that anyone would know it."


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