David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: High time granddad of grounds received a facelift

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Spectators at the  Basin Reserve. Photo / Ross Setford
Spectators at the Basin Reserve. Photo / Ross Setford

Nothing beats a full Basin Reserve for a day of test cricket in this country.

It is New Zealand's premier test ground, a large outfield, giving full value for shots, a large bank taking up close on one-third of the viewing space. In full bloom it is a sight, such as yesterday, when draped in the range of flags which accompany the Barmy Army on their travels around the globe.

And all situated on the world's largest roundabout.

The Basin has hosted 14 of New Zealand's 72 test wins. The players enjoy it. The spectators love it, unless the southerly is in full cry.

New Zealand has three superior cricket specific grounds - the Basin, Seddon Park in Hamilton and Dunedin's University Oval. Hagley Oval in Christchurch is likely to be the next, and a welcome return to the city for international cricket it will be too.

But the present trio are distinctly different and have their individual appeal. The Basin - first test in 1930 - is the granddaddy.

However, this iconic ground also has the RA Vance Stand.

Construction began in 1980 but it badly needs a facelift, or rebuilding.

You don't need to go rooting about in its bowels to find signs of wear. The rust is in plain sight. The windows are coated in months (years?) of grime. It is an eyesore.

Here's a surprise: money will be the issue.

Alongside it the Museum Stand - housing the impressive cricket museum - is off limits to spectators, on safety grounds.

Let's say, for the moment, money is not an impediment. There would be a good argument to run a stand from the northern edge of the Vance Stand - named after former Wellington captain and prominent national administrator Bob Vance - right around to take in the Museum Stand, and provide a modern, sweeping stand to provide the contrast with the bank. Pipedream perhaps, and remember Wellington is also in the throes of considering a flyover running past the northern end of the ground out to the airport to improve traffic flow. A seriously pricey business.

Money, therefore, will be at a premium and you know which job will have first dibs - that which affects the citizens of Wellington, not the smaller group of cricket fans.

This weekend, Sir Ron Brierley's annual get-together for a past New Zealand team is for the 1973 group who toured England.

They're all in town, other than Sir Richard Hadlee and Rodney Redmond, and in those names you have polar opposites in terms of their test careers. One the country's greatest bowler, indeed one of the game's finest; the other a one-test, one century wonder, and mention of his name inevitably leads to quizzical "whatever happened to him".

Of that team, wicketkeeper Ken Wadsworth and classy left arm spinner Hedley Howarth have died.

In their day at the Basin, the players would sit on deckchairs out beside the Museum Stand. This weekend they might reflect on how things have changed since then.

They might also, if they cast an eye around while they're being feted in the Norwood Room in the Vance Stand, come to the conclusion that it's been good while it's lasted but it's high time for, at least, a decent spit and polish to match the playing arena.

- NZ Herald

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