Garth George: Howzat? Five days in sporting paradise

Add a comment

There are few things more enjoyable and relaxing than watching test cricket - ball by ball, at the ground. And that's what I've been doing for the past five days.

I was lucky. My wife and I had planned to attend the first New Zealand-India test at Hamilton a couple of weeks ago, but circumstances conspired to make that impossible.

So we decided to go to the second test at Napier instead and while McLean Park doesn't have the appeal of Hamilton's lovely Seddon Park - a truly cricket-on-the-village-green ambience - Napier is a much nicer place to spend a week.

Hamilton is a place you bypass if you can, drive through if you have to, and stay in if you must. Seaside Napier, on the other hand, is one of New Zealand's more pleasant places to be.

(Nor, incidentally, does Seddon Park compare with the genuine stadium atmosphere of Eden Park as it used to be, which has always been my favourite place for watching test cricket.) But more importantly than that, if we'd gone to Hamilton we would have seen New Zealand trounced by the Indians in less than four days.

At Napier, however, we were privileged to see what few New Zealand cricket fans have ever seen at first hand - our team bat for nearly two days and rack up a score of more than 600 runs. And to top it off to watch another event that is relatively rare - three batsmen score more than 100 runs in an innings, and one of them more than 200.

The performances of the incomparable youngster, Jesse Ryder (201), Ross Taylor (115) and Brendon McCullum (163), all in less than two days' play, made for mesmerising cricket-watching, and the trip to Napier would have been worth every penny just for that period of play alone.

My thanks go again to those veteran radio commentators Bryan Waddell and Peter Sharp, who, among others over the years, have taught this latecomer to cricket most of what he needs to know to follow the complexities of the game.

Such as the difference between slips and gullies, silly mid off and mid on, deep fine leg and mid-wicket; cover drives, straight drives, cut shots and pull shots and so on and so forth.

Every time I attend a test match I have my pocket radio plugged into my ear, my binoculars glued to the action, and every time I learn more of the intricacies that lend such fascination to the great game of test cricket.

In those quiet times which are part of any test match, the folk on the bank and in the stands hold as much interest as what's going on in the middle.

And among any day's highlights is the colourful activity of the young and not so young on the field during lunch breaks, including at Napier a uniformed constable bowling to a bunch of kids, and later keeping wicket for them - using his policeman's hat instead of gloves.

It seems a shame that so few people bother to attend cricket tests these days. I suppose it is just another example of the decreasing attention span of the populace in general in these days of instant this and instant that.

Which explains why the new-fangled game of Twenty20 cricket, which takes but three hours, has been such an instant success, surpassing even the 50-over, one-day game in popularity.

People these days don't seem to have time for the finer things of life - such as five-day test cricket - unless they can have them right now, or preferably 10 minutes ago.

I never go to wham, bam, thank-you fans Twenty20 or one-day games.

They were invented for television and that's where they are best watched, free from the aggravation of loud music, boozed and bad-mannered patrons and crowded, noisy grounds.

It seems to me that New Zealand Cricket has become so enamoured of big-money sponsorship and television coverage that it has forgotten about attracting sports-lovers to the grounds for test matches, which have to be the finest sporting spectacle ever devised. Where else can you get five days' (usually) entertainment for $75?

Perhaps it is time to suggest to those who run New Zealand Cricket that while sponsorship and TV coverage are all very well, nothing gives the home test team more incentive and encouragement than packed stands and terraces.

Still, I suppose I'd rather have it the way it is and have plenty of room to spread myself out on a grassy bank or in an almost-empty grandstand.

The English dramatist Harold Pinter once observed: "I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on Earth - certainly greater than sex, although sex isn't too bad either."

Could be, I suppose, but I tend to think he's got his priorities seriously back to front.

* garth.george@hotmail.com

- NZ Herald

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 20 Sep 2014 18:52:15 Processing Time: 1626ms