Previously, we’ve brought you Part One of the 1976 White Ferns’ tour story, told through their captain Trish McKelvey and the diary the players completed while on tour. The team left Wellington on January 20 1976, bound for Madras via Sydney, Perth and Singapore before playing their first match in India on January 23. By the time they boarded their plane home on March 1, they would have played ten matches in ten different cities. Now, we bring you Part Two, focusing on the cricket and the antics that went along with it.
The tour’s opening match, a one day game against East Zone, was rather uneventful with New Zealand cruising to a 7-wicket win. The match was a useful introduction to conditions and crowds, especially as the next match, the first test, was to be played at one of cricket’s greatest stadiums, Eden Gardens.
In spite of the grand reputation of the ground, the players found conditions to be a struggle – the changing rooms were so dirty that playing whites soon turned black. The slow play of the Indian team added further frustration throughout the tour, and this match exemplified that approach. India crawled through their second innings to leave New Zealand requiring 180 in just 40 minutes for the win. The team gave it a good go, but finished at 98 for 3 and the test was drawn.
Ahead of the second test, the players trained at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi where fans and goats on the ground interfered with their fielding practice. Rain would reduce the first day to just 40 minutes play, while reporters in India’s newspapers would later lament their own officials for their lack of skill in covering and dealing with a wet pitch. The lack of play did give the New Zealanders a chance to head to the High Commissioner’s residence for drinks, “a bit of home we all enjoyed”.
Day two of the second test saw an “international incident” unfold when the New Zealanders were given a, non-regulation, five and a half ounce ball to field with. International rules stipulated women’s matches were to be played with five ounce balls, which weren’t manufactured in India at the time. Eventually New Zealand used a practice ball from their own gear and the match continued. In a review of the series, one Indian newspaper was astounded that balls of the correct weight weren’t imported into the country as they were for other sports, like in tennis’ Davis Cup.
Between the third and fourth tests against India, the New Zealanders had three tour matches against local opposition. These matches offered some of the most entertaining on-field moments of the tour. Against Combined Universities, the players’ tour diary notes that the day was punctuated by “2 dramatic collapses”: the Universities’ side losing its last six wickets for just one run and the sight screen which took a team of “about 50” to re-erect. In the next match, against North Zone, Trish won the toss and, as she went to pick up the coin and show it to the crowd as was the custom, her opposing captain grabbed it and claimed the victory. The day was to get worse for Trish as her bat was stolen from under her nose later in the match. In spite of police with bamboo sticks searching through the crowd, her bat was never to be seen again.
“I can’t find words to describe our jubilation at winning the fifth and final Test”.
Entry in the 1976 White Ferns tour diary
After draws in the third and fourth tests, the New Zealanders were keen to finish the tour on a high by claiming a win in the fifth. After declaring at 299 for 6 in their first innings – narrowly avoiding becoming the first side to score 300 runs before tea at Bangalore – New Zealand bowled India out for 142. After the follow-on was enforced, India gave a strong showing in their second innings but left New Zealand chasing just 98 for victory. New Zealand knocked off that score for the loss of just one wicket, with Barb Bevege hitting 58*.
On that victorious note, the first tour of India by a New Zealand women’s cricket side was over. In spite of all the challenges and sickness, the tour diary highlights a team who enjoyed themselves and the Indian culture. In one of the final diary entries, the writer notes that this was “a great team to be away with”.