T20 arrives, Pink Pads arrive and Dilshan… by helicopterPeter McGlashan |
Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui may not be a former cornfield, but as the crowd drift through the gates for our next T20 fixture in this gorgeous beach town, I can just make out an eerie voice blowing in with the sea breeze, whispering, ‘Build it and they will come…’
This used to be the playground for Messrs Doull, Hart, Bailey and Bradburn in the form of Blake Park, but now, reinvented as Bay Oval, the ground is the stage for a new set of stars, in the shape of Watling, Marshall, Flynn and soon, fingers crossed, Dilshan. T20 cricket has finally blossomed in New Zealand and for the first time in our sporting history as far as I know, our overseas star will helicopter into the ground just an hour before the first ball is bowled, after arriving in the country only a few hours before that.
On hearing the voice a second time, maybe it’s the voice of Players Association Head, Heath Mills, whispering ‘Play it and they will come’. Finally domestic cricket has some pulling power, and the provinces marketing departments are being forced into action as T20 fever takes hold of the countries holiday destinations.
The following domestic cricket as a whole is enjoying at the moment is the best it’s been in decades. Not since Alex the Kid and the Sega Master System gave kids a reason to stay indoors and stop climbing trees, has domestic cricket enjoyed such high attendance levels and media coverage.
There are several reasons for this being bandied about, all valid arguments and all contributing in their own way to the positive following. Naturally each of Cricket’s stakeholders has their different view.
Ali Beck and New Zealand Crickets domestic marketing department have done a great job getting the word out, all round the country that T20 cricket is the thing to come and watch and be a part of, and crowd numbers reflect that. I’ve lost track of the number of bus shelters and billboards I’ve seen advertising upcoming games and appearances. HRV must be ecstatic about the new relationship and the coverage they also are enjoying.
The unusual availability of the country’s best players has also contributed to the success of the competition and strong attendances. It’s been 10 years since Brendon McCullum played a game in Invercargill, 8 years since Dan Vettori played in Tauranga and never will have Ross Taylor been available to play 3 games in a week in New Plymouth. It is therefore no wonder that all three venues have been bulging near capacity on each occasion.
The crowds have come out and it is vital that New Zealand Cricket capture this interest, much like New Zealand Football will be under pressure to capture the fervour that will follow the All Whites at the World Cup in South Africa. Finally the New Zealand public have found a place in their busy lives for T20 cricket much like the English and South Africans have been doing for the last few seasons.
The timing of the games for me has helped immensely, allowing people to attend when it is convenient for them and they want to be entertained. Most games have been played in the early evenings allowing employees, still lamenting having to return to work, an outlet and a sense that their holidays linger on just that little bit longer. Televised games have been tight ones and some spectacular cricket has been put on to complement the bouncy castles, face painting and barbeques.
At Northern Districts we have set out to use the increased coverage to aide the efforts of an organisation helping raise awareness about one of the most common forms of cancer, Breast Cancer. The Northern Knights and the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation have set about capturing the imagination of the NZ cricketing public by playing the entire HRV T20 Cup in pink, a colour not normally associated with cricket teams in this part of the world. The association and initiative has been greatly received and hopefully our efforts on and off the field will raise awareness and much needed funds to help battle this terrible disease, which affects so many people all around the country.
My own Grandmother experienced a double mastectomy when I was very young and we were fortunate that to date she hasn’t had any ongoing problems but for a lot of families they are not as lucky. It is wonderful to be able to use the attention and support we get as cricketers to support an organisation and cause that helps so many people fight back.
While sitting round with the guys at Aero, I asked whether it was possible to make some pink pads. The rest of my team are wearing their black pads but, as usual, I wanted to do something a little different. When it became clear that was as simple as ordering some pink foam from our suppliers I mused over what more we could do to raise funds and awareness.
Then it dawned on me, why not get my pink pads signed as I travel the country playing against all the teams in the HRV Cup. Never before had so many international players been available for a domestic competition so never again would there be a better chance to create a piece of sporting memorabilia of such value. We could then donate the money to NZ Breast Cancer Foundation.
Many bats are signed by one or two teams but very rarely to pieces get auctioned with such a complete set of autographs of so many great players.
So it started, the journey began. As you can see from the photos they started off clean and now have the signatures of every domestic player in the country, including all the Black Caps, as well as Overseas players Ravi Bopara, Owais Shah, Yasir Arafat, Graham Napier and Tillakaratne Dilshan. They will be available to be bid on from about January 17th on TradeMe.co.nz and the auction will close at the conclusion of the HRV Cup.
You can get more information about the story and the auction at
Enjoy your cricket wherever you are around the world, it is an exciting time for the game, and its great to be able to help a worthy cause by playing the game we all love.
Please check out the website and auction mentioned if you are interested in getting your hands on one of the most unique pieces of sporting memorabilia around, or if you know of collectors forward this link on.