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Chris Kuggeleijn: The man immortalised by Richard Hadlee

Chris Kuggeleijn © Getty Images
Chris Kuggeleijn © Getty Images

Born on May 10, 1956, Chris Kuggeleijn is usually remembered as the man who took the catch to give Richard Hadlee his world record. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a cricketer-turned-coach-turned-teacher-turned-coach with a middle name Mary.

Christopher Mary Kuggeleijn’s one-of-its-kind-among-Test-cricketers middle name can be accounted to his Dutch origins. Not really a champion cricketer, Kuggeleijn’s flattish off-breaks, more-than-capable batting and excellent fielding (mostly at slip) earned him two Test caps. He also played 16 ODIs without much success.

Kuggeleijn played 89 First-Class matches, mostly for Northern Districts, and finished with a haul of 57 wickets at a humble 42.73; he never managed a five-for, but an economy rate of 2.72 was excellent under New Zealand conditions in that era. He also scored 3,747 runs at 27.55 with four hundreds, and claimed 73 catches.

Early days

Chris and J Kuggeleijn (whose first name is not documented) grew up in Auckland. J Kuggeleijn played a solitary Hawke Cup match for Franklin against Northland, but when Fiji toured New Zealand in 1977-78 he played against them for Franklin. Chris played in the Hawke Cup as well, albeit for Hamilton.

Chris made his First-Class debut against Central Districts in Shell Cup, 1975-76; he scored 15 not out and two in the encounter at Hamilton. He cemented a place in the Northern Districts side, but did not do much of note barring his maiden hundred — 119 against Canterbury at Hamilton in 1980-81. Despite not being an outstanding cricketer, he was a natural leader, and was elevated as the captain of the team.

In 1987-88 he found some form, scoring 60 and 30 not out against Wellington at Hamilton and 87 more (along with three for eight) against Canterbury at Lancaster Park in consecutive matches. When England came over that season, he played them for Shell XI at New Plymouth, scoring 21 and 46 and picking up one for 55 and three for 47.

ODI debut

He made his ODI debut in the four-match home series against England, playing all four matches. He scored 34 at Carrisbrook and 40 at Lancaster Park, but New Zealand lost both matches. In the third ODI at Napier, Kuggeleijn removed Neil Fairbrother and David Capel, and got Fairbrother again at Eden Park: New Zealand came back from behind to level the series 2-2.

Kuggeleijn was retained for the Sharjah Cup later that month. The tournament also involved India and Sri Lanka; New Zealand came runners-up, and though he did a competent job against the Lankans, Kuggeleijn never managed to create an impact against the Indians. He was picked, somewhat surprisingly, for the India tour next season.

Test debut

Kuggeleijn found a place in the tour match against North Zone at Faridabad: against a strong attack consisting of Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar, Chetan Sharma, and Madan Lal, Kuggeleijn scored 54 not out; he followed this with the wickets of Raman Lamba and Kirti Azad, and subsequently found a place in the first Test at Chinnaswamy.

After Dilip Vengsarkar chose to bat, all eyes were on Richard Hadlee: when would he go past Ian Botham’s world record tally of 373 Test wickets?

It did not take long. After Hadlee and Ewen Chatfield had sent down an over each, the first ball of Hadlee’s second over lifted and moved ever so slightly away from Arun Lal; Kuggeleijn completed the catch low at third slip. The world record was achieved, and as Rajan Bala wrote next day in The Indian Express, Hadlee took “Arun Lal and catcher (Chris) Kuggeleijn (third slip) along with him into the record books.”

K Gopinathan, the only man to have captured the catch, later wrote in The Hindu how he had “clicked each and every ball, evoking derisive laughter from the other photographers, who thought I was wasting film.” The photograph was in demand among New Zealand journalists after the match, and Gopinathan had agreed only if the great man himself had agreed to sign a copy. Almost immediately after Hadlee signed Gpinathan’s copy, Kuggeleijn himself ran into the dressing-room and asked for a personal signed copy!

Hadlee got Krishnamachari Srikkanth early as well, but their decision to pick three spinners (John Bracewell, Evan Gray, and Kuggeleijn) backfired. Navjot Sidhu, playing a Test after five years, scored a rollicking 116 in 195 balls with four sixes (all of which came off spinners) and 12 fours. Some good batting from Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri, and Kiran More took India to 384. Kuggeleijn finished with the wicket of More, conceding 50 from 13 overs.

Soon afterwards, the New Zealanders were down with several unfit men (mostly due to stomach ailments) after Day Three. Still requiring 40 to save the follow-on with four wickets in hand, Hadlee could not resume batting on Day Four, and neither could Kuggeleijn come out to bat. With eight wickets down Kuggeleijn eventually had to walk out at eleven after Ian Smith had fallen to Kapil with two runs still left to make India bat again.

Haryana Hurricane then trapped Kuggeleijn leg-before first-ball, and out walked a frail-looking Hadlee; he prevented the hat-trick, hit a boundary to save the follow-on, but when India walked out with a lead of 195 the New Zealand attack, sans Hadlee and Kuggeleijn, was down to three men.

The Indians hit out violently, and despite a 77-run opening stand New Zealand were bowled out for 164 on Day Five chasing 337 as Arshad Ayub and Narendra Hirwani ran through them. Kuggeleijn fared slightly better, facing three balls, but still fell for a duck. He remains the only New Zealand batsman to score a pair on debut against India.

Kuggeleijn was dropped from the next Test at Wankhede that India lost. Following a 127-ball 101 against Tamil Nadu at Panaji he was recalled for the third Test at Hyderabad. India won the Test by ten wickets; Kuggeleijn scored seven (his only runs in Test cricket) and a duck, and was asked to bowl only 19 deliveries. He had the “honours” of conceding the boundary that got India the winning runs.

He played all four ODIs on the tour without much impact, and all four against Pakistan back home. He never played international cricket again.

Back to domestic cricket

Kuggeleijn returned from India as an improved cricketer, but with Bracewell and Dipak Patel in the side his chance was as good as gone. He scored 101 not out against Canterbury, lighting up Hamilton in a partnership with Graeme Hick. Soon afterwards he demolished Auckland at home with match figures of 30-17-33-5.

M R Ave W Ave
India tour and before 66 2582 24.83 36 46.14
After India tour 23 1165 36.41 21 36.9
Career 89 3747 27.55 57 42.74

He scored an explosive 102 not out in 89 balls (Northern Districts scored 134 during his stay) with 12 fours and five sixes against Central Districts at Nelson in 1989-90; in his last match, in the next season (which was also his benefit season), against Wellington at Basin Reserve, he scored five.

Post-retirement

After retirement, Kuggeleijn was appointed coach of Northern Districts (who came runners-up in the Shell Cup and won the Max League in 1998 during his tenure), but he quit the job to join Hamilton Boys’ High School in 2001 as a teacher. Under him the school won the national championship twice. He was named the coach of the New Zealand Under-19 side in 2009.

His son Scott, coached and mentored by Chris since the age of four, has played First-Class cricket for Wellington and Northern Districts as well as List A matches for New Zealand A. Chris’ nephew Thomas has played for the Central Districts Under-17.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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