Ties that bind from sports tours are often those that endure.
None more so than Christchurch’s Lancaster Park cricket’s club’s 50th year celebration of a senior team’s tour to Australia and south-east Asia in 1971.
Delayed for a year because of Covid almost all the 11 players still living, including Sir Richard Hadlee, gathered in Christchurch recently for a reunion and story-telling.
Four players of the 15 who toured are no longer alive while another, Allan Ford, was unable to travel from Perth after a brush with Covid.
* New pavilion for one of the country’s largest and most prestigious cricket clubs
* England captain Heather Knight says India ‘lying’ about Mankad warnings
* Next generation of cricketers to get runs on the board from new sports center at Hagley Oval
The eight-match tour had two games in Australia, two in Singapore, three in Hong Kong and one in Malaysia, returning six wins.
Many of the predominantly young squad, with nine under 25, went on to greater achievements, none more so than Hadlee, who became New Zealand’s finest fast bowler. But he was far from the finished product when the wiry but at times wayward speedster joined the Park players, having linked with the club.
At the time Hadlee has been expected to join the High School Old Boys club, having just come out of the Straven Rd academy, alongside brothers Barry, Martin and Dayle. But places in the strong HSOB senior side were not guaranteed and the lure of a month-long pre-season tour proved tempting for Hadlee.
Hadlee helped repay the decision being part of the premier club team’s consecutive Canterbury two-day championships titles won in 1971-72 and 1972-73, Park winning four titles in six seasons.
The team’s tour also enabled the players to be cricket-fit by the time the 1971-72 season started, recalled a reunion organizer Murray Smith.
In those days there was no gaming trust funding and it took many hours of housie fundraising at the Sandridge Hotel to pay for the trip.
Yet the overall the whole tour cost just $12,271.50 with the fundraising not only paying for the tour costs but also for outfitting with blazers, trousers, shirts, both dress and casual shorts and cabin bags plus a small allowance of ‘pocket money’ three times on tour.”
“That seems ridiculously cheap now 50 years on,” Smith said.
The first match was against a West Australian selection drawn from state squad players proved a tough initiation and was lost.
Game two against Malaysian Colts at Kuala Lumpur was a two-day game was won easily after Hadlee took four for six from nine overs.
Smith recalled Hadlee ”scaring the daylights out of the home team”, who were dismissed for 39. He did not bowl in the second innings.
There was a win and a loss against a Singapore selection and the Singapore club respectively before three wins in Hong Kong over the Hong Kong CC, Kowloon CC and a Hong Kong selection.
The final match against the ”Tattersall Backseaters” at Brisbane’s famous Gabba ground was the tour highlight with the home side led by the great Australian player Ray Lindwall. It also included test players Tom Graveney from England and Rusi Surti of India plus several Queensland state players. Park won the limited-over encounter by six runs.
Smith said the players were feted on tour and treated like royalty taken to race meetings and shown some jaw-dropping sights on the backstreets of the Asian countries by their hosts.
Manager Mac McKenzie, the former publican at the Lancaster Park Hotel, said in 1971 that the tour was the trip of a lifetime. ”To travel thousands of miles to [then] unknown countries with many different nationalities, ideas and living conditions, to meet and form great friendships with great people and cricket as the common denominator.”
Smith said the team left a financial legacy for the club as club members continued the fundraising mantra that eventually enabled the Lancaster Park club to build clubrooms on Stevens St opposite the ground which were subsequently sold.
Ironically, cricket will finally return to Lancaster Park this summer with the ground converted back to a community facility hosting the sport, literally, at grassroots level.
The 1971 Lancaster Park squad was: Rex Gearry, Dave Hannah, Allan Ford, Tony Collins, Peter Burney, John Jackson, Allan Bashford, Maurice Randle, Tony McKendry, Wayne Wilson, Mac McKenzie (manager), Don McKendry (c), Bruce Irving (vc), Richard Hadlee, Murray Smith.