The Tours of the Pakistan Eaglets to The United Kingdom in the 1950s: Additional Findings and ReflectionsMartin Chandler |
Author: Battersby, David
Rating: 4.5 stars
When Archie Mac started the Cricket Web Book Review section way back on Boxing Day of 2005 he quoted Arthur Mailey’s comment that there are 7,584 people in the English-speaking world who buy every book on cricket published.
There was as much spin on that comment as on a Mailey leg break, as even when he made the observation there were nothing like that number of people who bought everything on cricket. But the principle was and is a sound one, and there are still a few of us with whom Mailey’s words will strike a chord.
Back in August of 2020 David Battersby published a fascinating book on a number of tours made to England by the Pakistan Eaglets side through the 1950s, so a long way from the mainstream of cricket literature. That one was never going to sell 7,584 copies and unsurprisingly therefore was produced in a limited edition of 120 copies.
In some ways it is odd that I should feel the need to use the word ‘fascinating’, rather than simply ‘interesting’ for what were, when all is said and done, a series of not particularly important visits. That I do is perhaps the fact that Pakistan was at the time, in all ways, a fledgling nation, coupled with the fact that in relation to its cricketers it has, right from those very earliest days, produced some of the game’s real individuals. It may also be that the air of mystery that Battersby had to leave hanging over aspects of the tours led in part to their charm, with the resulting gaps in the narrative almost demanding to be filled.
To be fair to Battersby he anticipated at the time of publication that more information would come to light, although I doubt even he thought that he would need another 56 pages, and find so many new photographs and items of memorabilia. That he has is testament to his audience, a number of those who purchased the original book in the UK having dug deep into the location of the missing matches, local archives, and the memories of survivors.
The greatest help to Battersby has however come from Pakistan, and in particular in relation to the 1959 visit which, courtesy of a journalist’s strike that summer, was the least well chronicled of the tours. Locating and gaining access to the reports that were sent back to Pakistan together with the memories of surviving players was achieved with the help of the curator of the Lahore Cricket Museum. I suppose giving some assistance would have come within Najum Latif’s job description, but I am sure he must have gone well above and beyond that.
So there is much to admire in this latest addition to Battersby’s oeuvre. Not only is there a great deal of new material, but the determination shown by cricket lovers the world over to help a fellow researcher is a pleasure to see. And the quality of the narrative? Much of it is, as it should be, the sort of cricket writing you would expect, but there is one absolute gem that I will quote exactly as it appears, gleaned from writer Richard Heller from Test star of the 1970s Majid Khan:-
At the end of the Eaglets tour in 1954, the manager somehow took the party to Geneva rather than Genoa for the trip back to Karachi. They had to find funds in a hurry to correct the mistake and Prince Aslam, who was an amateur musician, raised some of these by busking. The story is so bizarre that part of me doesn’t see how it could possibly be other than apocryphal, although on the other hand would anybody make up something so ridiculous?
Like almost all of Battersby’s publications The Tours of the Pakistan Eaglets to The United Kingdom in the 1950s: Additional Findings and Reflections is self-published and appears as a limited edition, this time of 125 signed and numbered copies. The cost is a very reasonable £10, inclusive of UK postage and packing but, regrettably I can offer no advice on the subject of how to obtain a copy of the original book which, I am not at all surprised to learn, sold out almost straight away.
Copies of this one can be ordered from the author by email, email@example.com