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11th Knights Tour of the UK 1982–83

Captain's report

The 1982 Knights team assembled in Johannesburg on Tuesday 30th December for their traditional fixture against a past Knights Team.  The team was:

  • Richard Robinson (Captain)  (NATAL)
  • Tony Crouch (NATAL)
  • Denis Kampel (TRANSVAAL)
  • Michael Bacher (TRANSVAAL)
  • Keith Crankshaw (EASTERN)
  • Stuart Hailstone (WESTERN)

After the match, which the 'old Boys' won 5-1 despite some close tussles and with Denis Kampel notching up the only win for our team against Alan Colburn, an informal get-together and braai-vleis was held at Joy William's house in Johannesburg.  The following day final arrangements for the tour were made and during lunch at the Wanderers Club Kendal Jarvis briefed the team on various matters.  The six of us eventually flew out from Jan Smuts at 1800 hours on Wed Dec 1st.

The flight to England gave members of the team an opportunity to get to know one another and discuss provisional plans for the smooth running of the tour.  At Heathrow we were met by Dick Hawkey and Toddy Berman and after a very warm welcome we were transported to our hotel in Sussex Gardens, "Compton House", where we received an equally warm reception from the proprietors, Tom and his wife Elsie.  Dick ran through the tour itinerary with us, giving us some idea of the areas and distances involve and he handed me a very comprehensive contact list which would enable me to confirm match venues and times in advance.

The first match of the tour took place that night against Lambton S.R.C. fortunately none of the matches dragged on for too long and we were able to return to the hotel that night with a convincing and confidence boosting 6-0 under our belts.  Judging from the records of post Knights teams it seems that a regular playing order was quickly established after a few games in England.  One of the characteristics (and I think merits) of this year's team was the even strength of the players and despite the fact that by the end of the tour certain chaps had emerged as the form players, for the most part it was possible to shuffle the order around in order to give everyone a crack at the top players whom we encountered.

The first leg of the tour, i.e. the first three weeks in London, consisted in matches against local clubs.  During this time we used the Underground and British Rail services in order to travel to and from our venues.  Forms of entertainment such as card games, pool and one armed bandits all helped to pass the time which was spent on the trains or waiting at the squash courts with the exception of the match against Hertfordshire (for many the first experience of playing on really cold courts) which was drawn 3-3, none of the games before Christmas posed too many problems and we began the second leg of the tour feeling fairly confident.  Moreover a four day breather in Paris did wonders for our flagging energy although the results of the next three matches may, on the surface, suggest otherwise.

At our briefing Kendal Jarvis had repeatedly warned the team about the dangers of growing obsessed with unbeaten records on tour.  This sound advice was always adhered to and at no stage was there any hint of an excessive and ungentlemanly obstinancy to win at all costs.  As it turned out Kendal needn't have fretted.  Dick Hawkey has become very adept at formulating his own subtle battle-plans to frustrate any team intent on maintaining an unbeaten record.

Thus, our first encounter with top class international players came at Nottingham where the current British Closed champion, Gawain Briars, and the top Aussie player, Chris Dittmar, were both included in the lineup.  Unfortunately, (or rather, fortunately) the other top Australian player who is based in Nottingham, Glen Brumby was unable to appear owing to his late return from an overseas tournament.  The scorecard shows that Nottingham won the match 3-2.  Stuart Hailstone and Mike Bacher battled courageously against Briars and Dittman respectively, however both went down 0-3.  But it was Keith Crankshaw and Denis Kampel who really shone that night.  Keith produced some outstanding squash to fight back from a 1-2 deficit against the very popular but ageing John Roe, to eventually win the match in five.  (The match, and especially the gallery which contained a few intoxicated enthusiasts, must rate as one of the most atmospheric I have ever seen.  Denis Kampel who, in the midst of all the excitement was busy waging his own battle on an adjoining court, will undoubtedly testify to this).  The other player who displayed equal tenacity that evening was Denis Kampel.  'The Menace' took some time to settle down as a results of the noise on the other court but his efforts were rewarded with a fine 3-2 win after trailing 0-2.  In the 'Captains' Match' Robinson defeated John Kingston 3-0 although we agreed beforehand that the number six position would not count for result purposes.

The matches against the Squash Rackets Professionals' Association and Yorkshire followed a similar pattern with the Knights losing 2-4 and 2-3 respectively.  Nevertheless, many of the matches went to five and the competition was very beneficial.

It would be impossible to give a brief sketch of all the matches on tour.  The three after Christmas are significant since we lost them and they also produced some of the best squash of the trip.  (Dick Hawkey was convinced that the weekend in Paris had something to do with this sudden hat-trick of defeats!).  However the hospitality which we received at most of the clubs around England was truly overwhelming.  It ranged from the gay night-life and revealing Cabaret acts of the Miranda's Night Club in London, to the country-style hospitality which was dished out to us by teams such as Shropshire, Middleton and Cumbria, to mention just a few fo the memorable stopovers.  After 21 year of practice Dick Hawkey has succeeded in perfecting most of the organisational aspects of the tour and it is no exaggeration to say that things ran like clockwork from the moment we arrived in London.  Of course experiences such as getting lost on the winding country roads and the occasional minor administrative mix-up all added to the fun of the tour but on the whole there were no serious incidents, and in particular the absence of any political harassment was very gratifying.

During the second leg of the tour - our round-trip of the English countryside - the team was forced to hire a minibus in order to get around.  Having discussed the various options open to us, i.e. whether we should hire two cars instead, we decided to go with the combi.  In retrospect this was by far the best choice.  The cost did not exceed the cost of having two cars and the arrangement was far more conducive to the task of maintaining a good team spirit and, perhaps more importantly, the business of locating venues without getting separated and lost.  I would strongly advocate that future Knights teams bear this option in mind.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the tour two team members, Michael Backer and Tony Crouch, had to return to S.A., Michael in order to write a supplementary examination, and Tony, to commence his national service.  Michael left first and consequently from the 5th Jan on we fielded a team of five in our remaining matches.  Tony returned on the 16th Jan, one day before the official end of the tour.  On two occasions, namely the matches against Hampshire (10.1.83) and at the final game against a North London select at Henga S.C. I decided to recruit the services of a fellow South African, Dereck Lawrence, whom we had bumped into at the West Sussex Open, in order to make up the Knights team rather than letting the opposition down by turning out a depleted side.  Dereck managed to win both his games and was a good ambassador consequently I hope my decision will not be too improper.

As I have said, by the end of the tour certain chaps had emerged as the form players.  Stuart Hailstone recorded an outstanding win against Ashley Naylor (ranked 4 in Britain) in the match against Yorkshire.  Denis Kampel was also successful in the Britsh U19 open Championship (the Drysdale Cup) where he reached the Quarter finals only to lose to the number two seed V. Hayat in four games.  Keith Crankshaw also did well to win the plate event in the West Sussex Open at Worthing.  On the whole, however, the players found it difficult to play their best squash at the tournament after the heavy build up of team matches and all the travelling which this involved.

Throughout the tour the team was careful not to antagonise any of our hosts and thank you cards and letters were dispatched at regular intervals.  Although we did not see much of Dick Hawkey in person his guiding hand was clearly distinguishable and he was always 'on call' to help us solve any problems.  On the last night of the tour the remaining four of us accompanied Dick to an old English Pub in Beaconsfield where we enjoyed a very pleasant meal and a few pints of bitter which must have been brewing since the days when Charles I lay concealed there, judging from their strength.  As a token of our appreciation and as a memento of our stay I presented Dick with a bottle of whisky on behalf of all of us.

Our return to Southern Africa has been somewhat irregular Tony and Michael had already made the journey and the next to embark was myself on the 22nd Jan.  Denis, Keith and Stuart had all made arrangements to stay on for a little longer in order to play in The British U23 Championship and various other tournaments.  Consequently my responsibilities ceased from the 22nd onwards and I presume that by now the sheep have returned to the fold.

To conclude I would like to thank all those involved in the organisation and running of the tour bearing in mind that the Knights Tour is the product of a close liaison between the S.A.S.R.A. and the English body.  Consequently our thanks are due to many people in Johannesburg and especially Kendal Jarvis, Joy Williams and Chris Richards for their hard work and also to the various sporting goods manufacturers and University sports councils who kindly offered to donate kit or money to alleviate the financial burdens of the trip.  Finally to Dick Hawkey and Toddy Berman and all our other friends in England, Hartlik dankie! and enjoy your break before the next bunch arrives in Dec 1984.

Posted by : Richard Robinson at 17:31:PM on Sunday 20 February 1983
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