The New Zealand cricket team that toured England in 1949 was the fourth New Zealand team to do so. It would be fair to suggest that the previous three tours had not been particularly successful ones, although 1927’s was certainly influential in securing our first Tests in 1930. By the time the 1949 tour ended, New Zealand had been catapulted firmly into the Test match arena.
The 1949 tourists lost just one game and proved themselves to be a formidable and tough-minded outfit. Quite a bit of that strength emanated from the tour captain, Walter Hadlee, who was mentally resilient, fair, and resolutely determined not to go the same way the other New Zealand touring teams had.
When this New Zealand team left England at the end of September 1949, they had held their own against one of the strongest cricketing sides on the planet and transformed New Zealand from a cricketing team that tried hard and, at times, punched above their weight, in to a true Test cricketing nation.
Walter Hadlee kept a diary of the tour and his son, Sir Richard Hadlee, has made this wonderful primary resource available for everyone – making a tremendous job of it in the process. I have spent most of my life editing primary sources and, trust me, it is a very hard work. Transcribing handwriting is a major task in itself, while deciding which snippets of information need some explanation to help the reader is also a time consuming and demanding of precision that can be all consuming. Richard Hadlee’s editorial work has brought the diary to life and those days from 68 years ago are fresh and engaging – making the 473 pages far less daunting than one might think.
The book itself is a wonderful production. The diary entry for each day is usually given it’s own page. Consequently, there are plenty of white spaces and the book benefits enormously as a result. It’s not cluttered and messy but clean and approachable, allowing us to appreciate the copious illustrations and notes. From pictures of the ships the team travelled on, to pictures of team outings, they complement the text. Overall, the book’s layout draws the reader in and encourages them to browse and reflect on what they are reading. It also helps us to see the social history that underpinned this tour. We are in an England that is still recovering from World War Two and, like the players did, we see glimpses of this world that exists beyond the cricket.
Richard Hadlee provides a thorough (fourteen page) statistical appendix. There is a section detailing the careers of the team after the tour and one or two of these pen sketches make for poignant reading. Hadlee also reprints the confidential report made by Jack Phillips the New Zealand Tour Manager to the New Zealand Cricket Council where Phillips writes,
To adequately express my appreciation of the behavior and good sportsmanship of the team is impossible.
Having read less than fulsome reports sitting in the New Zealand Cricket Museum from other tour managers one realizes just how good this team must have been to work with. It is also refreshing to see a full and detailed index for this volume that goes beyond just listing the names. So many cricket books don’t have one and they suffer for it, in my opinion. The indexer should be complimented on their thoroughness in constructing an index that will be helpful to the casual reader and scholar alike.
From reading his diary, Walter Hadlee comes over as a thoughtful and perceptive man. His writing is clear and concise and he carries the reader along with him as the tour progresses.
Of course, teams don’t tour England like “The Forty-Niners” did anymore. It took them five weeks to get to England by boat where they played four Tests and games against county and invitational teams from April until September with only twelve days free. The only team member spared the long voyage was Martin Donnelly who was based in England. At the end of it all, Walter Hadlee was exhausted as he boarded the ship to return to New Zealand. It may have been another world, but the effort and skill of this team provided the building blocks for the New Zealand cricketers of today.
Buy this book.
It must surely rate as one of the most impressively-produced books about New Zealand cricket we have seen and should be on the bookshelf of every cricket lover. It’s a volume the New Zealand Cricket Museum is proud to have helped with and, with it, Richard Hadlee has done both his father, and that wonderful team of 1949, proud.
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Sir Richard and Lady Dianne Hadlee have generously made contributions to three cricket-related charities from the proceeds of The Skipper’s Diary. We are honoured to be one of these charities, alongside the Cricket Live Foundation and The Cricketers Trust.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Richard and Lady Dianne for their generosity and support.