A Wanganui Collegiate development squad will make history when it tours the West Indies to be schooled in the art of cricket this summer.
The 13-strong squad will be the first New Zealand school boy cricket team to tour the West Indies where cricket is virtually a religion.
While the West Indies may not be as dominant in world cricket as it once was, there is somewhat of a resurgence and the WCS side is expected to hold their own against teams of similar ilk.
The West Indies are current World Cup 20/20 men and women champions and Under-19 50-over titleholders.
The 18-day tour, beginning when the Kiwi lads depart on December 28, will take in nine matches against college sides in Barbados before returning home on January 14.
The team will be coached by WCS 1st X1 mentor Warren Marr and managed by Gilbert Hokianga.
On Saturday just gone the Wanganui Collegiate gymnasium was transformed into a cricket arena to host a major tour fundraiser with top class cricketers Mark Greatbatch and Dipak Patel on stage alongside Sir Graham Henry and Stu Wilson, better known for their deeds on the rugby field.
A fact not many knew was that Sir Graham Henry actually played first class cricket without reaching the giddy heights of his fellow illustrious panellists Greatbatch and Patel who are former Black Caps.
It was revealed, however, that Sir Graham was one of Greatbatch's first cricket coaches during his days as an Auckland Grammar school boy.
Greatbatch was a playmaker for the fundraising dinner and has a vested interest in the tour with son Charlie Greatbatch named in the 13-strong squad.
The dinner attracted around 160 guests and took on a humorous question and answer-style format as a number of major sporting memorabilia was auctioned, including an AB de Villiers hat and shirt, a Ross Taylor bat used against Australia when he scored 292 runs, a Ben Smith (rugby) shirt and shorts, Dipak Patel and Mark Greatbatch signed 1992 World Cup shirts and a Martin Crowe limited edition signed bat.
"It was an enjoyable and successful evening, and yes, Sir Graham was my cricket and rugby coach at Auckland Grammar, but he never selected me for rugby," Greatbatch told the crowd.
"I've always said he was a great coach, but not as good a selector," he joked.
"I didn't tour the West Indies during my Black Cap days, but Dipak did and said they were extremely passionate about the game, probably even more so than some Asian countries.
However, our team will be competitive against the teams chosen for the itinerary, but more importantly the tour will be an enormous experience for their development," Greatbatch said.
The proceeds of the fundraising evening have yet to be tallied up, but in the meantime wine sales will continue the drive to support the tour and can be bought by visiting firstname.lastname@example.org
The squad is:
Ben Kelt, Charlie Greatbatch, Connor O'Leary, Tom McIntyre, Bruce Donald, Henry Kilmister, Hadleigh O'Leary, Nate Lewis, Joel Clark, Joseph Abernathy, George Meyer, Shaun O'Leary.