In 1976, the New Zealand women’s cricket team travelled to India for their first tour of the sub-continent. While the matches wouldn’t be classed as official Tests, they were keenly fought between a home side developing in the international game and the visitors, seeking to prove themselves in a challenging new environment. The captain on that first tour was Trish McKelvey who would return in 1978 to lead the team in the World Cup and then again in 1985 as manager for the White Ferns first official Tests in India. With the 2015 White Ferns back in India for 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is, we talked with Trish and explored the 1976 team’s tour diary. You know, what goes on tour…
All three of these first tours to India were organised by the now-defunct New Zealand Women’s Cricket Council, with the players taking a leading role in financing the tour. Among other fundraising means, players traipsed up and down suburban streets delivering phonebooks: strength and conditioning training in the form of practical revenue generation.
Once the funds were established the 1976 team flew to India via Sydney, Perth, and Singapore. Landing in Madras, the team entered into a world few of them had ever experienced – but the trip of a lifetime had a few challenges along the way. Incredible heat, massive crowds, security concerns, the food and the accommodation were all a world away from anything like the comforts of home.
There was little time for the team to get settled with the tour’s first warm-up match beginning almost immediately. The players took turns writing in the team diary each day. After the opening match, played in front of more than 10000 people, the entry stated “this was a day [that] will never be forgotten”. Sentiments like this would become a common theme on the trip, for all sorts of reasons.
The tour schedule was jam-packed with transport between cities often scheduled overnight after matches to ensure the team arrived at their next destination in time to play. Whether travelling by plane, bus or train, very few trips were without incident.
One flight was delayed by an hour while they waited for a (full) coffin to arrive, while a bus trip was punctuated by the driver hitting a cyclist and the team’s Indian liaison person untangling it while still on the move. Train trips were dreaded more than most as much-promised First Class cabins proved to be “not even clean or fit for cattle”. These trips by rail could take as long as 36 hours in cramped conditions and often featured the same number of stops along the way.
The 1976 team were relatively lucky with their booked accommodation, often staying in places where they could enjoy swimming pools, cold beer, and home comforts. Trish recounted how the 1978 side booked at the Great Eastern Hotel, based on their experience there in 1976, but ended up at the Great Eastern Guest House. With dorm-style rooms that changed into the dining room come breakfast time, no running water, and toilets being holes in the ground, the players were pretty eager to get out of the Guest House and back to the Hotel. After a call to the High Commission, the team found themselves at his residence for Christmas Day and the Great Eastern Hotel that evening.
“Maureen wanted a photo of her chatting to her friend the monkey but one started to get fresh & wanted to dance with her…”
Diary entry from the 1976 White Ferns’ visit to the Taj Mahal
As with most touring cricket teams, there were a huge range of after-match entertainments and events organised for the players. There were so many, in fact, that some players were glad when illness struck and ruled them out of engagements. There was time for sight-seeing though and a visit to the Taj Mahal proved popular as did shopping trips to local markets. Every time the players set foot on the streets, they were swarmed by locals wanting photographs. The combination of a passion for cricket and the fascinating sight of a large group of white women travelling together proved a hit for the Indian people.
Food and sickness are common challenges for visiting teams in India, and the 1976 White Ferns were no different. Match days often featured a revolving system of substitute fielders as players were struck down by varying levels of sickness. After just a week in India, the team’s diary noted that “the ‘appetite chart’ continues to fluctuate daily with Karen [Hadlee] & Maureen [Peters] still at the rear of the field.” These two players probably had the worst of it on the tour, with their diets of hot chips and bananas becoming such a feature that they were given t-shirts at the end of the tour: “Chips” for Karen and “Wanna Banana” for Maureen.
Alongside these off-field antics there was plenty of action on the park too with ten matches scheduled over a five-week period. Read the story of the antics that accompanied the onfield action here in Part Two of the 1976 White Ferns’ tour story.