Tauranga eyes Cricket World Cup qualifiers

By John Cousins

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Tauranga is poised to step on to the world cricketing stage if it wins selection as a venue for a Cricket World Cup qualifying tournament.

The month-long tournament in January will feature 10 non-test playing nations vying for the last two places in the 2015 World Cup to be played in Australia and New Zealand.

Bay of Plenty Cricket Trust general manager Kelvin Jones said he was confident Tauranga would win selection as the North Island hub for the tournament.

"We are in a very strong position to win the bid. There have been really good noises."

If Tauranga's bid was successful, it would host five of the 10 teams for warm-up games followed by the round-robin competition.

He suspected the finals would be played in the South Island hub of the tournament.

The non-test playing nations vying for the 14 World Cup places include Kenya, Canada, Afghanistan, Ireland, Holland and the United States.

Nine officials from the International Cricket Council (ICC) visited Tauranga in January to look at the facilities at Blake Park's Bay Oval.

Winning selection would help celebrate the completion of the Trust's new $2.65 million pavilion at the oval. Construction starts soon on the changing rooms, player viewing area, lounge and offices.

Mr Jones said the officials were also interested in the progress to build a first class cricket block on Blake Park's top field on the other side of the pavilion. The trust has put in a submission to the council's 2013-14 Annual Plan to bring forward its plans for a cricket block.

Winning selection meant five teams, each comprising 25 players and officials, along with ICC umpires and scorers, would be staying in Tauranga.

"It would have quite an impact," he said.

Unlike test nations, he did not expect to see many supporters following their teams out to New Zealand for the tournament. However, he expected team nationals living in New Zealand would gravitate to the tournament, adding to the numbers that he estimated would inject more than $1 million directly into Tauranga's economy.

Mr Jones was hoping cricket fans would get to see up to 12 50-over matches at Blake Park which had an international standard wicket and outfield.

What stopped Tauranga from bidding for World Cup matches was the $2.6 million needed to build international standard lights, scoreboard and media centre. But the trust hoped Blake Park would be selected as a World Cup training venue and possibly even for warm-up games.

A bonus for tournament organisers was Blake Park's 18 grass practice wickets - the biggest in New Zealand.

"It is really exciting for us. We are pretty confident it is going to happen."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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