When a box of family treasures landed on her desk, Megan uncovered the lost history of Indo-Australian cricket

It’s a familiar lament of the touring fast bowler in India: “I don’t mind telling you that when we reached Indore things were getting somewhat desperate,” he says.

“With so many players unfit, and others nervy/jaded and ill-tempered, I was a bit afraid that the happy relationship that had existed was coming to a ‘sticky’ end.”

The words belong not to the current Australian captain Pat Cummins, whose embattled squad faces another daunting task this week in Indore, but Queenslander Ron Oxenham, writing as a member of the path-finding first Australian team to visit India in 1935-36.

For decades, little was known of the tour — not officially sanctioned by Cricket Australia’s forebears on the Australian Board of Control (whose most important players were forbidden from accepting a GBP 300 touring fee) and decried by the press: “The Has Beens and the Never Will Bes” was The Age’s summary of the rag-tag squad assembled by cricket impresario Frank Tarrant and his wealthy Indian benefactor Bhupinder Singh, the Maharajah of Patiala.

Frank Tarrant and his cricketing patron, the Maharaja of Patiala, could rely on runners when they batted together in one of the lighter-hearted games at the end of the tour.(Supplied: Maharajah of Pataila)

That put-down is now the title of a book, 10 years in the making and subtitled ‘A Boy’s Own Adventure of Australian Cricket and the Raj’, by photographer-historian Megan Ponsford, granddaughter of cricket legend Bill Ponsford.

For years, Ponsford had been asked whether she’d write a book about humble genius Bill, but it was another family tie and a chance discovery that set her on 10 years of research.

In 2005, a cardboard box was plonked on Ponsford’s desk at the Melbourne Cricket Club by a sheepish committee member. It was a trove of sporting relics donated decades earlier by Tom Leather, Ponsford’s unassuming great-uncle.

Ponsford knew that Leather had played league football, but she was stunned by what the items revealed: Leather had also been a star all-rounder in the first Australian cricket squad to tour India, something he’d never even mentioned at family events.

“The story was instantly captivating,” Ponsford says.

“As a photographer, I was initially impressed by the ephemera — dinner menus, scorecards, letters and photographs — but it soon became apparent that it was a story not just about cricket and the more I delved, the more fascinating it became.”

She was off and away on what proved an equally epic journey — a decade of travel, research and interviews to uncover the story of great-uncle Tom and his trailblazing cricket teammates.

‘Shunned by the Australian cricket authorities and the public’

Megan Ponsford (centre) stands with Marnus Labuschagne (left) and Steve Smith (right)
Almost 90 years on from the cricket tour that has consumed her professional life, historian Megan Ponsford has been following the current Australian tour of India, pictured here with batting stars Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith.(Supplied: Megan Ponsford)

Currently in India to speak about the treasure trove of forgotten history she has assembled — members of Australia’s current squad learned about Leather and co during a recent event at the Australian High Commission in Delhi — Ponsford says cricket enthusiasts are slowly beginning to understand Frank Tarrant’s cricketing prophecy.

Source link

#box #family #treasures #landed #desk #Megan #uncovered #lost #history #IndoAustralian #cricket

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *