David Leggat: McLean Park simply can't be trusted

NZ Captain Kane Williamson and coach Mike Hesson inspect the wicket during a rain delay. International One Day Cricket. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
NZ Captain Kane Williamson and coach Mike Hesson inspect the wicket during a rain delay. International One Day Cricket. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

New Zealand Cricket should be looking at alternative options to host the fourth ODI against South Africa on March 1.

Napier's McLean Park simply can't be trusted to deliver after the embarrassment against Australia this week.

At the last point of checking no one can control the weather. Had it rained through Thursday that's just bad luck.

However NZC are now in a situation where rain the day before a match in Napier can send it into the bin. That's unacceptable.

Three ODIs in Napier in the last six have been washed out.

The second, against Pakistan a year ago, had no chance due to heavy rain.

However the first, against the West Indies, in 2013, ended with hours of sunshine on game day and little attempt to dry the outfield. It made no sense.

It left a feeling of anger from those who'd sat through the afternoon sunning themselves.

If the outfield is a bog call it off early; don't leave the faithful sitting about in the vain hope of something eventuating. It was similar yesterday.

The lack of communication rankled. Keeping the crowds informed is PR 101. They'd paid good money, taken a day off work, the kids were goggle-eyed, excited.

Playing smart alec rain themed music doesn't help the mood either.

The drainage ability of most of New Zealand's cricket grounds is good. McLean Park unfortunately is the worst of them, and this has been the case for some time.

No one could be surprised at how Thursday unfolded.

Napier's civic bosses knew the score. Drainage must be improved and until that happens major international matches have to be taken away. There is a suggestion adjustments were made around 18 months ago to alleviate the problem. In which case, a demand for a refund should be made pronto.

It is a tough call for the people of the region, nevertheless Central Districts and ground owners Napier City Council need to get this blight sorted. They have a good pitch, a committed groundsman in Phil Stoyanoff, who was filmed head down around early afternoon on Thursday. He knew the score, too.

NZC would be reluctant to change the venue on March 1. But they should, at the least, be taking a serious view of this, exploring avenues. Imagine the outcry if things go pear-shaped again. And don't go thinking this is shouting at shadows.

Thursday was one of the three biggest days of the New Zealand cricket summer. Yes, South Africa's tour is the centrepiece and should be a cracking visit.

But Australia is a big deal. Eden Park turned into a staggering occasion last weekend; appetite was high for round two. And look what transpired.

NZC at least admitted things could have been handled better. There are regulations surrounding the time games can be called off. This was one where an early finish would not have helped, but would have put an end to the sitting, waiting and hoping.

Will fans be lost because of it? Probably. And that's why NZC should be fingering dates, cross checking ground availability. And please don't come back and say nowhere else was available due to domestic obligations. International trumps domestic every time.

If they stick with McLean Park, you'll bet there will be official fingers crossed nervously, not just for a fine game day, but fine weather for the two days beforehand. And that's just not how it should be.

- NZ Herald

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