The ICC Cricket World Cup is just one of the highlights of an epic summer of cricket, says Graeme Beasley

Wellington welcomes the world

Caption: Mascot for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup and an inflatable cricket ball (photo courtesy Mike Lewis, NZ Cricket Museum)

Crick­et in the 21st cen­tury is a var­ied and com­plex entity, and noth­ing demon­strates that quite like this sum­mer in Wellington.

The appet­iser, if pies can be called an appet­iser, is the Geor­gie Pie Super Smash tour­na­ment, which is near­ing its cli­max. Because of the made-for-TV nature of the event, Wellington’s host­ing involve­ment was con­tro­ver­sially lim­ited to a three-day week­end at the sta­di­um. While a crowd of 3,000-plus would have cre­ated a great atmo­sphere at a T20 match at the Basin Reserve, by tele­vis­ing it under lights you get a New Zea­l­and-based audi­ence of upwards of 90,000.

New Zea­l­and Crick­et has sharpened up its act in a lot of ways over recent years, and that includes the play­ing depth at domest­ic level. How­ever, the com­mer­cial viab­il­ity of the major asso­ci­ations has been neg­lected at the expense of the focus on the nation­al side. There is talk about privat­ising these asso­ci­ations to make them more com­mer­cially focused. Expos­ure like the T20 tour­na­ment is vital if such a move is to be viable.

The Basin does come into play in Janu­ary, with a test against Sri Lanka, fol­lowed by Wellington’s defence of the Ford Trophy, ‘defence’ being a term rarely heard across most Wel­ling­ton sports teams. Crick­et Wel­ling­ton acknow­ledges the ground’s appeal, and the double-head­er over Anniversary week­end will be pro­moted as a ‘Cel­eb­rate the Basin’ event, as opposed to a mere sport­ing contest.

This is the one sea­son, how­ever, when the real high­lights will be not actu­ally be at the spir­itu­al home of crick­et in the cap­it­al, but at West­pac Sta­di­um, as the ICC Crick­et World Cup rolls into town.

It will be 2011 all over again. The giant screen and fan zone on the water­front will be back, along with the fan trails to the sta­di­um and all the col­our that goes with such an event. In 2011, through the vagar­ies of the draw, Wel­ling­ton did not quite exper­i­ence the full atmo­sphere of the Rugby World Cup due to the fact that Eng­land and Ire­land nev­er got to play here. Trav­el­ling fans, espe­cially those arriv­ing from the oth­er side of the Tas­man, ten­ded to spend as little time in the cap­it­al as pos­sible. Dur­ing the week you could be for­giv­en for not know­ing there was any­thing going on at all.

This time around it is quite dif­fer­ent. Eng­land, and its accom­pa­ny­ing loud yet well-behaved Barmy Army, gets two pool games in the cap­it­al — against New Zea­l­and and Sri Lanka, whose fans are pretty numer­ous and devoted them­selves. As a bonus, there is a quarter-final, which will almost cer­tainly involve New Zealand.

There has been a lot of recent angst about West­pac Sta­di­um being the wrong shape and that it is not really a crick­et ground. Much of that is jus­ti­fied, and it is always going to suf­fer when com­pared to the Basin. How­ever, for those three matches in Feb­ru­ary and March, it will be able to deliv­er to a level that can make the tour­na­ment organ­isers and Wel­ling­ton proud.

About Graeme Beasley

One of those rare people: a born and bred Wel­ling­to­ni­an. And enough of a Wel­ling­to­ni­an to know how to pro­nounce Majoribanks Street. Has a soft spot for the Makara wind farm, the south coast and the buck­et foun­tain, but refuses to toot the horn in the Mt Vic­tor­ia tun­nel. Very famil­i­ar in hand­ling the full range of emo­tions gen­er­ated by sup­port­ing Wel­ling­ton sports team. Works in IT.

About Graeme Beasley

One of those rare people: a born and bred Wellingtonian. And enough of a Wellingtonian to know how to pronounce Majoribanks Street. Has a soft spot for the Makara wind farm, the south coast and the bucket fountain, but refuses to toot the horn in the Mt Victoria tunnel. Very familiar in handling the full range of emotions generated by supporting Wellington sports team. Works in IT.

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