Hadlee brings fa­ther’s mem­oirs to life

Nelson Mail - - SPORT - BREN­DON EGAN

He’s done it all in cricket, but Sir Richard Hadlee has pulled off the ‘‘finest achieve­ment’’ of his record­break­ing ca­reer.

New Zealand’s great­est crick­eter has spent the past four years bring­ing the metic­u­lous de­tails of the diary kept by his late fa­ther, Wal­ter Hadlee, to life from the suc­cess­ful 1949 tour of war-torn Eng­land.

Hadlee is trav­el­ling the coun­try pro­mot­ing The Skip­per’s Diary, which doc­u­ments the day-to-day ex­pe­ri­ences of the eight-month trip, where New Zealand earned re­spectabil­ity by draw­ing all four tests.

‘‘This is in fact my great­est achieve­ment in bring­ing this story back to life,’’ Hadlee said.

‘‘The fact that I’m hon­our­ing dad and recog­nis­ing him and ap­pre­ci­at­ing the achieve­ments of the Forty-Nin­ers.

‘‘For me, it’s my finest achieve­ment and some­thing I’m very proud of and quite frankly get a lit­tle bit emo­tional about.’’

Hadlee said the con­cept was born in 2014 af­ter a dis­cus­sion he had in Trinidad ahead of a New Zealand match against the West Indies.

He re­flected just how much over­seas tours had changed from his play­ing days, but noted how vastly dif­fer­ent it was from his fa­ther’s era and 1949, when he cap­tained the side to Eng­land.

Pre­serv­ing his fa­ther’s diary and the story of the Forty-Nin­ers for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions was a piv­otal part of the project.

‘‘To me, it’s more than a cricket book, it’s also a his­tory book. They were pioneers and they should never be for­got­ten.’’

Turn­ing Wal­ter’s jour­nal into a pub­lish­able for­mat was a time- con­sum­ing and highly chal­leng­ing un­der­tak­ing, which took about 4000 hours.

‘‘It was a hel­luva job get­ting it into a ba­sic man­u­script. It took a lady a year to ac­tu­ally tran­scribe it.

‘‘She did a re­mark­able job be­cause dad’s writ­ing was so small and there was writ­ing on top and at the bot­tom of pages.’’

Hadlee then went through ev­ery word and ev­ery page to up­date the man­u­script into some­thing that was read­able for pub­lisher, The Cricket Pub­lish­ing Com­pany.

He said the 514-page book, which in­cludes a two-hour DVD doc­u­men­tary, was packed with en­gross­ing sto­ries about trav­el­ling through post-war Eng­land, where ra­tioning was still in ef­fect and build­ings lay in ru­ins.

The five-week sea voy­age to Eng­land on board the Do­min­ion Monarch and 36-day trip home via the Panama Canal was a tale in it­self.

Hadlee re­called a clas­sic anec­dote where left-arm spin­ner Tom Burtt, the chief de­stroyer with 128 wick­ets on tour, kept mo­rale high on the way over.

‘‘He’d ring up play­ers on the boat in a falsetto voice as if he was a woman and try and en­cour­age one of the play­ers to meet the lady down at the swim­ming pool on the boat, so it was all set up.

‘‘Poor old Ver­dun Scott was the vic­tim ac­tu­ally and all the play­ers were there watch­ing on from a dis­tance.’’

New Zealand lost just once - to Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity - in 32 first class games on tour, win­ning 13 and draw­ing 18.

They weren’t lim­ited to matches in the United King­dom, also trav­el­ling to Al­lied-oc­cu­pied Ger­many, where they took on the Com­bined Ser­vices in Bad Oeyn­hausen, which served as the head­quar­ters for the Bri­tish Army of the Rhine.

‘‘I found that the most fas­ci­nat­ing part of the whole book - see­ing the his­toric sites and dam­age, par­tic­u­larly Hitler’s bunkers.

‘‘The Bri­tish forces were oc­cu­py­ing the Rhine as peace­keep­ers be­cause the Rus­sians and Ger­mans still weren’t get­ting on.

‘‘There were skir­mishes be­tween the two, so the Bri­tish had to keep the peace.’’

Hadlee said the class of 1949, which in­cluded Bert Sut­cliffe, Martin Don­nelly and John Reid (the lone sur­viv­ing mem­ber), paved the way for New Zealand Cricket with both their re­sults and the £16,800 profit gen­er­ated from the tour, ‘‘which equates to about a mil­lion dol­lars in to­day’s cur­rency’’.

New Zealand played three-day tests against Eng­land, but be­cause they per­formed so strongly they were granted four-day sta­tus af­ter the tour by the Lon­don-based Maryle­bone Cricket Club (MCC).

Af­ter distribut­ing money to the four ma­jor as­so­ci­a­tions at the time, £15,000 was kept in a re­serve fund to guar­an­tee fu­ture cricket tours to and from New Zealand.

‘‘The legacy is the fact we earned cred­i­bil­ity and re­spect for the first time as a crick­et­ing na­tion.

‘‘Had they not per­formed, if this par­tic­u­lar tour had lost money, New Zealand Cricket was in grave dan­ger of stalling and noth­ing hap­pen­ing for a long pe­riod of time un­til they re­gen­er­ated their fi­nances some­how. That’s the pres­sure that these guys were un­der.’’

The Kiwi play­ers were am­a­teur, be­ing paid a pound per day, which was back­dated to in­clude an ex­tra shilling a day by the New Zealand Cricket Coun­cil be­cause the trip was such a suc­cess.

Hadlee be­lieved part of the rea­son why New Zealand per­formed so well was the fan­tas­tic ca­ma­raderie among the squad. ‘‘That was sim­ply be­cause they were away for eight months.’’

Wal­ter had high ex­pec­ta­tions of the play­ers in Eng­land and Hadlee hoped his fa­ther, who died in 2006, would have been proud of the fin­ished prod­uct.

‘‘I think he’d be look­ing down and say­ing ‘Well done lad’. He lived for cricket. He loved the tour. In a strange way, he loved all the play­ers and they de­vel­oped a great friend­ship there­after.

‘‘To bring the story to life is ful­fill­ing for me.’’

Hadlee said there were about 6000 copies, which aren’t avail­able in re­tail shops, with 119 lim­ited edi­tion leather bound books, sym­bol­is­ing Wal­ter’s high­est first class score on tour.

Three char­i­ties will be sup­ported with a do­na­tion from pro­ceeds from book sales, in­clud­ing the New Zealand Cricket Mu­seum, the Cricket Live Foun­da­tion, where un­der­priv­i­leged street chil­dren in Sri Lanka and In­dia learn life skills through cricket, and the New Zealand Cricket Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion Crick­eters’ Trust.

BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF

Sir Richard Hadlee launched story of the ‘Forty-Nin­ers’ New Zealand cricket team’s tour of Eng­land at Trail­ways in Nel­son on Wed­nes­day.

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