All India and Down Under: Peace, Partition and the Game of Cricket

Released: 2023
Pages: 256
Author: Knott, Richard
Publisher: Pitch
Rating: 3.5 stars

That no one writes tour reports anymore, or at least no one publishes them anymore, is an observation I’ve made many times. I think there are two reasons for that, firstly, that we can all see what’s happening today for ourselves, and secondly, that there won’t be any touring in the twenty-first century anyway. Flying in and out of a country for a concentrated burst of international cricket is a far cry from the leisurely journeys which in days gone by took many weeks and involved a fixture schedule criss-crossing the country visited and involved a lot more than a series of tryouts.

But tour books still appear, the main change being that they have become throwbacks to old tours and series that live on only in books and in some cases some precious fragments of newsreel films. This title tells the story of two tours just after the war, the visit to England by what was then known as All-India in 1946 and England’s hugely disappointing trip to Australia the following winter. Both were the subject of books at the time, in the case of the former by John Arlott and LN Mathur* and the latter by Bruce Harris, Clif Cary and Denis Compton, but neither tour has been fully investigated since.

Occasionally the retrospective tour account is very similar to the type of book that might have been published at the time. The story is compiled from contemporary accounts and, unless the author has gone too far back in time, can be supplemented by the thoughts of those who were there and witnessed the events. In the case of 1946 and 1946-47, Knott does not have that luxury, except in the form of the autobiographies of the participants, so a simple account would add little more than a bit of retrospective to the accounts published at the time.

Given the circumstances, Knott wisely did not attempt to confine himself to one cricket history book and a look at his sources reveals the breadth of his research. All the cricket books I expected are there, but also a number of general history and social history works. The result is an engaging read that places the two tours firmly in the context of, and ties into, the poor state of the UK economy at the time. the new world order and the urgent need for the UK to grant independence to India.

The story that Knott tells is mostly chronological, although it digresses from time to time to provide context for the state of the world after the war and of English cricket. Included in the narrative are the stories of many of the men, most notably the three captains involved, Hammond, Bradman and Pataudi, but nearly all who played even a minor part in the events that transpired are given something of introduction, the only one notable omission from this is Indian all-rounder CS Nayudu. To be fair to Knott, aside from the loss to Yorkshire, Nayudu’s contributions to the tour were negligible, but given the extent to which he was disappointed and to make it clear to those less in the know that he is not confused with his famous older brother should be. I would have thought a nod to his backstory would have been useful.

But that’s a little grumbling about a story I really enjoyed reading. There are no major revelations in the book, but in the absence of new archival material there never would have been, and that’s no reason not, as Knott has done most cleverly, to let anyone interested in these two tours put it together spare all the source material themselves. The book also contains a bit of fiction and a rather nice touch, with Knott writing reports for the Indian team manager on the 1946 Tour and for Hammond on the 46/47 Tour. Both are entertaining, and while no such document by Pankaj Gupta exists, it would have been interesting to know how the Hammond document compares to reality.

In terms of production technology, the book is attractively designed and compiled and has an excellent register. One thing it surprisingly lacks, however, is information about author Richard Knott, although a quick Google search solved that for me. Knott is a historian and (multiple) previously published author. That explains why the book is so well written, viz All India and Down Under: Peace, Partition and the Game of Cricket is Knott’s first on cricket, let’s hope more are to come.

*I have never read Mathur’s book, and I suspect neither has Knott, as it is not mentioned in his bibliography. However, I do know that Mathur was not one of the three Indian journalists who were in England in 1946, so his account can only be an “ear witness” at best.


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