India's cricket stars were welcomed onto Bay Oval today with a powerful pōwhiri, something many of the players had never experienced before.

In fact, it was the first time such a ceremony had taken place for a visiting team at the Mount Maunganui ground.

When asked about the Māori welcome at this afternoon's press conference, Indian opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan cracked a massive smile.

"I loved it and I would say that we all loved it," he said.

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"I have watched it on YouTube earlier, but when I watched in real it was a totally amazing feeling, the energy they created was amazing.

"The whole ceremony was really good and at the end, the way we met them. It's good to see the culture and embrace it, the way we shook hands and touched heads together, I'm sure that passes energy and it was amazing."

World-class batsman Rohit Sharma led the Indian side and staff on to the ground, where they faced a stirring haka.

Rohit Sharma doing a hongi with Tapuraka Dickson. Photo / Andrew Warner
Rohit Sharma doing a hongi with Tapuraka Dickson. Photo / Andrew Warner

Tauranga kaumātua Turi Ngatai later addressed the visitors, in both te reo Māori and English.

Ngatai told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend afterwards the tangata whenua were pleased and "humbled" to welcome the special visitors from the subcontinent.

"It's something that we as the tangata whenua think is really important and to be given that opportunity to do that, and to acknowledge the indigenous people of India as well as our people, and bring them together, it really comes as a great start."

He said a welcome like that had never been done at Bay Oval.

"That's a first and we would like to think that we're able to continue doing that sort of thing."

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The Indian cricket team and staff posing for a photo with members of the tangata whenua who welcomed them on to Bay Oval. Photo / Andrew Warner
The Indian cricket team and staff posing for a photo with members of the tangata whenua who welcomed them on to Bay Oval. Photo / Andrew Warner

The Indian players and the coaching and management staff looked genuinely thrilled, interested and taken aback by the pōwhiri, and some could be heard asking questions afterwards.

The Indian cricket team are being welcomed onto Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.

Posted by Bay of Plenty Times on Thursday, 24 January 2019


For Ngatai, a big cricket fan himself, it was also special. He recognised many of the players he was addressing.

He said he welcomed "a champion team to New Zealand to play another champion team – our team, because we believe our team's pretty good too."

Ngatai said he would be at Bay Oval watching the cricket over the weekend, as he was for the Sri Lankan matches earlier this month.

"This is going to be great."

Indian cricket legend MS Dhoni. Photo / Andrew Warner
Indian cricket legend MS Dhoni. Photo / Andrew Warner

There was one glaring absence at Bay Oval today, however, Indian captain and superstar Virat Kohli was not there.

That was not missed by Ngatai, who brought it up while talking in te reo Māori.

"They wouldn't have understood that," he said with a laugh later.

"I said we are missing one person, and a beautiful lady as well. But we are really pleased to be welcoming you all."

Ngatai was referring to Bollywood superstar Anushka Sharma, one of the best-known and highest-paid actresses in India, who is joining her husband Kohli on tour in New Zealand.

Tomorrow's One Day International starts at 3pm.