There was a time when a scrapbook was part and parcel of a sports’ fan’s everyday life. In a time before the internet and TV there was just the radio and newspapers. All over the world, people would listen to live match commentaries hissing through the ether from the other side of the globe and, for the next day or two afterwards, would eagerly read newspapers seeking confirmation and elaboration about what they had heard. Inevitably many of them would cut out those reports and carefully glue them in a scrapbook (how many school exercise books served this useful purpose!) and from them create their own lists of statistics, thoughts and memories.
Of course, now it is very different. We have countless websites that connect us immediately, and in remarkable detail, with the world of cricket. We can stream games, search statistics and read opinions in a flash. We can tweet more information in a day than we would pick up in six months (and only then after hard searching) thirty or forty years ago. For better or worse, it was different then and the New Zealand Cricket Museum has boxes of scrapbooks that confirm this. Some of them were compiled by the players themselves, documenting their tours to far-off lands or cataloguing a particular domestic season. Others were compiled by fans of the game, and it’s one of those we’ve chosen to write about.
In 1948 the Australians sent a formidable team to tour England. In fact, they played the entire tour without losing a single game: 34 matches played, 25 won and 9 drawn. They won 4 Test matches and drew the other one. This remarkable feat was achieved over a relentless schedule that saw them playing cricket on 112 days of a 144-day tour. The team has became known to history as “The Invincibles” and, somewhere in New Zealand, a young “J. Hunt” was avidly following the team’s progress.
The first page of the old school exercise book they used to document the tour had the tour itinerary written out in copperplate handwriting. The key points of each county game the Australians played are written, page-by-page, in chronological order in the same elegant style. Occasionally, there is a picture or a written report from a newspaper (hard to say which one, although the paper meticulously prints the time each report arrived in the country) which carried the New Zealand Press Association reports of the matches.
The Tests are recorded much more extensively with newspaper reports pasted in and full scorecards written out. There is that wonderful picture of Donald Bradman, at the Oval, being bowled second ball by the googly of Hollies for a duck. It was Bradman’s last Test innings ever and left him only four runs short of a completing his career with a Test match average of 100. Finally, at the end of the book, there is a hand drawn map of Great Britain where each county that Australia played is carefully drawn in and identified.
This is probably just one scrapbook of hundreds that was painstakingly compiled covering the same tour. When you touch it, smell the old, fading newsprint and look at the beautiful handwriting you are aware of the time and effort that went into it – the creator must have spent many, many hours bringing it to life. There is also a palpable sense of what we can best describe as ownership. The tour of “The Invincibles” is more than a magical period in the history of the game: it has become part of the life of scrapbook creator. They shaped the tour into forms and patterns of information they wanted to remember and savour. They have written out and detailed the aspects of the tour that were important to them; it now belongs to them and we know that another person’s scrapbook about the same tour could be a very different creation.
Scrapbooks help remind us that cricket is more than the actions of thirteen players on a green field. It’s something in the emotions and thoughts of all those individuals who watch and experience its possibilities. Cricket exists beyond the immediacy of any game and lives on in the minds of people and scrapbooks like this one and the thousands of others that sit in attics, drawers and museums. The game, and all its marvelous layers and interpretations, is kept alive as a result.
Maybe this ‘scrapbooker’ still comes to the cricket and, sitting in the sun, remembers those long ago winter mornings when they grabbed the paper for the latest news. We’d like to think so. Perhaps cricket lost them and they went in another direction. We will probably never know. Either way, we are glad of what they created and how it shows us what it means to be a cricket fan, today or generations ago.