Editorial: Only one we want to remain

By Doug Laing

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One-day at the park, please.

As much as McLean Park is part of the lives of the sports public of Hawke's Bay it should perhaps be even more so when New Zealand plays England in a day-night, limited-overs cricket match there tomorrow.

It comes at a time when it seems there is some sort of threat to the future of one-day international cricket which from a rebellious background in Australia in the late 1970s ushered in the global professionalism of the sport.

It effectively for the first time made New Zealand sport a part of the wider entertainment market, where sport competes for the spectator dollar against movies, concerts and other special events, and made overnight experts out of people who wouldn't have known an LBW from a cover drive.

Grounds packed and TV audiences flourished as entire households took to the "pyjama" game, a reference to coloured uniforms used in preference to the white flannels historically associated with cricket.

When Australian captain Greg Chappell ordered brother Trevor to bowl that underarm ball to New Zealand allrounder Brian McKechnie at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 1, 1981, it was an international incident, in which the Prime Ministers of both countries joined the debate.

In more recent times, another hybrid of the game called Twenty20 has emerged, and as our Black Caps generally have mixed results across the varying forms of the game, there are those who say one's got to go.

Startling, there are commentators who say the odd-man out now is the ODI, as it's known, and it's driven by "market forces" which say Twenty20 is the game for today.

Liker the game, the notion is rubbish. Since the hit-and-giggle Twenty20 arrived, our cricket's been a bit like a friend of a friend of a friend of the best man's cousin gatecrashing a wedding.

No question which should go, and at Mclean Park tomorrow we should be telling New Zealand Cricket which one we want to stay.

It's 40 years since New Zealand played it's first limited-overs match, and one-day international cricket in Hawke's Bay dates back to Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket (WSC) match between a World XI and Australia on November 18, 1978, at Nelson Park in Hastings, the ground now replaced by a shopping centre.

Although it was a Saturday, at a time of the year when there were few counter-attractions, and profiling possibly the best gathering of international cricketers seen in Hawke's Bay, the Park was far from full.

But it was a different story by the time official ODI cricket arrived in the Bay in 1983, when New Zealand beat Sri Lanka, the first of eight consecutive victories for New Zealand at McLean Park before the first loss, to Zimbabwe, on February 3, 1996.

With lighting just upgraded, the 1996 game was the first day-night ODI in New Zealand, the same ground being the venue for New Zealand's first floodlit rugby test four months later, the All Blacks against Samoa.

The sequence of wins encouraged NZ Cricket to allocate bigger games to Napier, and two of the three matches at McLean Park between the two countries have been tied, highlighting the drama ODIs have come to provide.

Some many years after big cricket matches in Napier had any serious issues with bad weather, the forecast is for fine weather, day and night. No excuses for not showing the powers that this is the game we love.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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