From Caversham Primary School, Macandrew Intermediate and King’s High, three Dunedin schools considered by some in the city to be lower-class, and where – by his own admission – he developed something of a chip on his shoulder, Warren Lees rose to play a significant role in several of New Zealand’s most memorable cricketing days.
Warren was the year’s first Club Otago lunch speaker and left a message of great principle.
While cricket fans remember him for his match-saving 152 against Pakistan in Karachi in 1976/77 in just his third test, him playing in New Zealand’s first-ever victory over England at the Basin Reserve in 1978 and in the famous one-wicket win against the West Indies at Carisbrook in 1980, and being part of the ‘underarm’ tour a year later along with his coaching exploits with both the New Zealand men’s and women’s sides, Warren considers his contribution to the game runs much deeper.
He spoke of a moment of clarity on the 1978 tour of England where the New Zealand players joined him in protesting over the poor treatment of the team’s scorer and of the pressure he, as coach, and the players were subjected to by New Zealand Cricket boss Peter McDermott at the time of the bombing in Sri Lanka in late-1992.
Warren noted he looks back on his decision to come home from that ill-fated tour with pride, knowing he would have always regretted bowing to the bullying tactics employed at the time.
He told the audience he hoped that everyone, during their lifetime, had the opportunity to enjoy at least one moment of high principle.
While modest about his time as both a player and coach, Warren did unveil that Martin Crowe was the most organised and focussed player he ever coached, with Sir Richard Hadlee and Glenn Turner having similar attributes.
Warren chose not to mention the majority of his playing and coaching days, but it is a career unlikely to ever be replicated. He played a record 108 matches for Otago, leading the province to more first-class and one-day titles than any other team through the 1980s. He coached both the Otago men’s and women’s teams, and the New Zealand men’s and women’s sides, taking both to World Cups.
As one of Otago’s favourite sporting sons, Warren’s address left the audience both enthralled and wanting more.