Aiming for 100 not out
Bill Richmond is a little hard of hearing. Pulling his gangly frame into an upright position of the comfy chair in the lounge of his home in Clive, a bespectacled Richmond leans forward to ask: "What's that, again?"
Reload, question at a higher pitch: "How are you celebrating your 92nd birthday, then, Bill?" Richmond, still wearing his poker face, replies: "I'm not saying anything until I go on to become 100."
Hawke's Bay cricket stalwart Ray Mettrick and Richmond's daughter, Bev, crack up laughing. Says Mettrick: "It'll take a good ball to get him out."
Last month, Hawke's Bay Cricket Association (HBCA) granted Richmond, Mettrick and Lee Ford life membership.
Born on December 8, 1919, William Roderick Richmond went on to provide a foundation for not only many youngsters' cricketing careers but also left an indelible impression on their lives.
"He was Mr Schoolboy Cricket in Hawke's Bay," Hastings accountant Barry Rosenberg says in a rash of glowing tributes for a man who, from 1965-79, selected, managed, coached, organised and sponsored Bay primary schools' representative cricket.
Stephen Kale says: "Bill encouraged my drive to succeed and to always give my best. This stood me in good stead for life after cricket."
Some attribute Richmond's input in 1965 as the beginning of junior boys' cricket in the Bay.
A quadrangular tournament involving provincial primary school representative teams from the Bay, Wellington, Hutt Valley and Auckland at Cornwall Park, Hastings, was Richmond's initiative.
In 1970 it evolved into a six-team tourney, embracing Waikato and Western Districts.
Concerned many promising players gave up playing cricket at high school, Richmond established an after-school coaching clinic at Heretaunga Intermediate School from 1965-77.
A rep team from the clinics went on to tour Australia with Richmond at the helm as selector and manager.
His unbridled passion for cricket prompted the livestock farmer to set up a clinic on his Raukawa farm, Torran (Thomas or Richmond's ran) Station where blokes such as Rosenberg and Tony Blain spent 2-3 hour sessions.
"It was very suitable to coach them at my farm and I had a very suitable wife, too," Richmond says of the late Rita Richmond.
Ask him if he's retired, Richmond reveals he was still docking sheep on a lifestyle block, near Hamilton, only last year.
Daughter Bev recalls how she and sister Sally returned from a cricket trip in Australia to start a Woodford House first XI team which Richmond coached and managed in 1976 to national acclaim.
An "intriguing irrelevancy" was star Woodford House performer Margot Seymour named "sportsman of the year". Her prize was a full set of male under garments.
The girls played softball on Saturday mornings then slipped on their cricket whites in the afternoons.
Bev, who was Woodford captain, and Sally "hated cricket" primarily because they were girls in an "extended family" of cricketing boys.
"Girls don't have the strength that boys have and they can't bowl as fast," Richmond says nonchalantly.
All that, of course, changed when after a 14-day, two-test trip to Melbourne and Adelaide to watch an Australia versus West Indies series.
"We saw people streaking so we thought, 'Right, if that's what cricket's all about then we're into it in a big way'," she says with an impish grin.
Bev, who kept scores for the New Zealand under-19 cricket side which son Peter Carey, 26, played for, outlines the disparity between boys and girls.
"If we smashed the windows at home boy we were in trouble.
"If the boys did then no problems - great shot, boys," she says, adding builder John Mackersey kept precise measurements of the house windows in anticipation of call outs.
In 1970, Richmond ordered a revolutionary bowling machine from Melbourne, the first in the country.
"I didn't do too many throw downs," he says with a grin, adding the machine went to Hastings Boys' High School and Lindisfarne College after that.
It now lives in the Waikato Sports Museum.
Tragically it arrived 10 days after Billy had died.
Former Bay senior men's representative player Billy Richmond, a right-arm leg spinner, was 21 years old when he died in a tractor accident.
"Billy's best wicket was Mike Shrimpton," Bev says.
The founder of the now defunct Richmond's meat company was instrumental in the success of the amalgamated Midlands Rugby Club, becoming the club delegate to the HBCA before assuming the mantle of Bay association president in 1979.
His brother-in-law, Fred Greville, managed the farm so that gave Richmond time to coach children.
The son of Catherine "Mary" and William Richmond was born in Hastings and attended Mahora School before attending Christ's College in Christchurch, where he first played cricket.
"I didn't go for rugby very much because it's a very physical and rough game," Richmond says.
His father didn't know what cricket was but his mother was believed to be the first female pilot in the North Island.
At high school, Edgar "Cobber" James Kain, the World War II ace pilot with 17 kills, was a third-form colleague of Richmond.
Richmond was in the Air Force towards the end of World War II and his brother, Jim Richmond, was a pilot, too.
A right-arm leg spinner, Richmond played up to club level and thought former Australian international-cum-sportscaster Richie Benaud was the bee's knees.
He went to England in 1961 to follow the Ashes series, which Australia won, and to see Benaud, now 81, do his thing.
Later, Richmond took his children to not only watch Australia and Benaud but even contemplated living there.
"There were very few good spinners here," he says, claiming Clarence Grimmett was the best leg spinner this country ever produced.
The Aussies claimed Grimmett as their own but the man who played between the two world wars was originally from Christhchurch.
Among countless protégés of Richmond were Rosenberg, Stuart Duff, Murray Jamieson, David White, Gary Walker, Mike Natusch, ex-All Black Greg Cooper, ex-All Black Bruce Robertson, Gavin Thompson, ex-Kiwi Kevin Tamati, John Reid, Bruce Edgar and Alan Hewson.
Perhaps a striking feature was the number of Maori players he blooded in his talent-scouting mission from Woodville to Gisborne.
They included fast bowler Walker, who often snuck away from the Mormon church at Stortford Lodge, changed into his whites in the family truck and ran all the way to Hastings Intermediate.
"When he snuck back at night he often got caught and, let's say, he was in big trouble.
"But his father would still ask him how he went with cricket," Bev says.
Richmond didn't see his Maori players as "different" but wished they had gone on to play at a higher level. He had an inexplicable rapport with children.
"You just listened to dad although my brothers probably rebelled a little," she says.
"He was a very patient coach. You respected his explanation because he studied cricket using a whole library of books."
He was known to place a £1 note in the nets at Torran Station to encourage children to hit it to improve their line and length.
"Once he put a £5 note and Gary [Walker] hit it so dad stopped that," Bev says.
She fondly recalls him taking an entire cricket team in his green Jaguar Mark 10 - four in the front with him and the rest in the back with the bags.
"It was anything for cricket," Bev says, adding Bay cricket umpire Del Whyte was one of the boys who went to Wairoa and back in the car.
Richmond says the car's twin petrol tank, which a driver switched to when one tank ran dry, always fascinated the youngsters.
He had a penchant for horses, buying Serenata from Christchurch breeder/owner Alf Louisson for his mother while he was still at school.
Serenata won the two-mile New Zealand Galloping Cup in record time on November 9, 1940, at Riccarton, near Christchurch.
The 4-year-old gelding finished runner-up to Kindergarten in the 1951 Wellington Cup over 1.5 miles at Trentham, where Richmond and his wife later celebrated their honeymoon.
The framed photos of the two horses have pride of place in Richmond's lounge.
Liebestraun, the foal of Serenata, won the 1947 New Zealand Derby.
Richmond dismisses any suggestions of horsey genes in his family.
"My father wasn't interested in horses but he was very interested in gambling."
Richmond's other passion was model trains, which were housed at Raukawa/Featherston/Matangi sheds before they were shifted.
It took eight men four days to pack the 40m x 20m creations.
The family had to hire a rugby team to load two containers.
Bev says they are close to finding someone who is keen to maintain the model trains.
Asked if he misses that hobby, Richmond simply nods his head in approval.
He still watches cricket matches on TV but has no time for "pyjama-wearing" blokes engaging in abbreviated forms of the summer code.
"What is Twenty/20?"
"He thinks Twenty/20 is like 'softball cricket'," Bev says.