Former Australian batsman Bill Ponsford'sgrand-daughter visits Pakistan and India.
This is what she has to say about her research after her recent visit to Pakistani , where she met Majid Khan and few other greats.
I commenced researching the 1935/36 (first) Australian cricket tour to India (and what is now Pakistan, 12 years prior to Indian independence and partition) about 8 years ago, after locating a box of artefacts (mainly 2D photographs, menus, score cards, programmes and 2 signed balls) that pertained to the tour, that had previously belonged to my great uncle, Victorian footballer and cricketer, Tom Leather (who was a fast bowler invited to participate).
Tom had died whilst the box was on loan to the Melbourne Cricket Club and they didn't know what to do with it as both his children had also deceased. The photographic imagery was of particular interest to me as a visually literate person. I had ideas about producing a photographic book or making a doco however almost by accident it was picked up in academia. I have now almost completed my PhD at Federation University Australia researching the tour. In the thesis I tell the story of the tour through an analysis of the imagery. The tour has previously not gained much interest due to its unofficial status. It was a professional exercise with the players being paid very handsomely (following the Depression this was possibly a major motivation to tour) and travelling, for the most, in luxury.
The purpose of the tour was to assist preparation for the Indian Test tour of England in 1936. The Indians were worried they would be humiliated and required the help and experience of the Australian team to assist selection, captaincy etc (unfortunately the British tour was marred by communal and offfield antagonism, some suggest this was inspired by the English as a reason to delay Indian independence). In a way the Australian contribution to the cause was a goodwill gesture and my research suggests that the Australians were very sympathetic to the political, cultural and racial plight of the Indians in the mid 30s. The tour was financed by the Maharaja of Patiala
who was an extravagant, diamond encrusted, massively wealthy, cricket loving potentate. Entrepreneur Frank Tarrant (ex Victorian and Middlesex professional and racing identity), one of the most interesting characters in cricket, acted as tour manager. The team was captained by Jack Ryder and Charlie Macartney was VC. The team comprised older retired ex players (Hendry, Ironmonger (aged 53!) and young promising cricketers showing potential (Morrisby, Leather, Allsopp). Despite having no direct control over the tour the Australian Board of Control vetoed who could participate and imposed some seemingly petty stipulations. (My Grandfather was one player who the Maharaja/Tarrant hoped to secure but was not permitted to tour despite having retired from Shield and Test cricket). A concurrent Test was taking place in South Africa with the official Australian team and the Sheffield Shield competition was also taking place.
The 1930s were a fascinating period in Indian history, race relations, IndoAustralian relations and the history of International cricket with tours such as these indicating a move away from the English centric orientation of cricket.
I have previously travelled to India conducting research on many occasions and have met many relatives of the players including the Patiala family. I was planning another trip early this year when I received an invitation from the Australian federal police and the Australian high commission to attend the Fayyaz Sumbal charity match in Lahore in Feb at the Lahore Gymkhana where the 1935/36 team played. The cup raises money for families of Pakistani police who have died in action. After expressing interest in attending I was invited to attend another cricket match in Islamabad to celebrate the opening of the Cricket World Cup, a diplomatic Australian team against a cast of ex player and younger ones showing promise not actually unlike the Australian team in 1935/36). I had been treated incredibly well and my research has been well received. I spent hours talking to the great Majid Khan and have met the son's of the 1935/36 players Nisar, Saeed and Sulahuddin. They all provided me with additional stories and imagery. I feel very lucky and my knowledge bank much greater.
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|Publication:||The Frontier Star (Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan)|
|Date:||Mar 3, 2015|
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