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