A_191121_BlackCapsvEngl(2).JPGCricket Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia. Photo / File A_210618aw15bop.JPG Former Black Caps Chris Pringle is stoked to hear the boxing day cricket will be in Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak 290920gn04bop.JPG
By David Beck and Cira Olivier
When it comes to international cricket, the Bay Oval and its staff have experienced a number of firsts in recent years.
The most recent fixture announcement for the picturesque Mount Maunganui ground is the most significant yet.
New Zealand Cricket yesterday announced
the Boxing Day test between the Black Caps and Pakistan will be played at the Bay Oval, which only hosted its first international test last year.
Bay Oval Trust general manager Kelvin Jones said holding a Boxing Day test at the venue was "a whole new level".
"It's a great step up for us, to have only played our first test last summer and to now get the Boxing Day test, it's just huge.
"We've made no secret over a long period of time that test cricket is important to us. I think the success of last year's test - and without doubt where we are in the country - plays a big part. We live in a great part of the world and it will be busy that time of year.
"We're seeing even now just how busy the Mount and Tauranga is with domestic tourism at this time of year, it's incredible to think how busy it might be in summer. Subject to good weather and a good game of cricket, we could get four or five days of pretty amazing crowds."
Jones said the development of the Bay Oval into a ground worthy of international cricket had been a long project and despite recent success, there was plenty more work to be done.
"We continue to try and improve the oval, it's not there yet, it's not the finished article just yet. But, we have gone from a little ground to being a lot closer to the top of the heap - we won't rest until we get there. Constant improvement is the name of the game for us, it's a competitive market out there for top-level cricket and we're aware of that."
He said there would be some pressure to prove New Zealand Cricket had made the right decision but it was nothing compared to the expectations he and the Bay Oval team placed on themselves to perform.
"I think there's always pressure and it mostly comes from within us as a group and a team. We're a small organisation but we put huge pressure on ourselves. Our turf manager Jared Carter deserves a lot of credit for being in charge of that wicket from the start of our international career."
Tauranga City mayor Tenby Powell described the Boxing Day test as "the plum game of the summer season".
"We've gone from new boys on the block last season to winning the Boxing Day test this season. We're very excited and thrilled and I think this is testimony to a real team effort.
"It's a credit to Kelvin Jones, Jared Carter for the quality of the wickets he produces ... There's also [Bay Oval trustees] Craig Greenlees and Neil Craig who are longstanding supporters of cricket. From the governing board right down to management and operations [everyone] has really won the day."
Powell said tourism in Western Bay of Plenty was punching well about its weight nationally and hosting the Boxing Day test would only add to that.
"We're really sustaining and can expect to see a broad range of domestic tourism here across the summer season. You don't have to join too many dots to realise that having this game here at this time will pack the Bay Oval out, which is just fantastic.
"Having the Bay Oval on the international map so early in the piece really is testament to the hard work of the many people involved. I'm sure we'll be 145,000 wonderful hosts to all the events that happen this summer season, sporting and otherwise."
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia hoped the weather would be kind and said the event would "certainly entice more visitors".
"While the Christmas New Year period is traditionally busy, we don't yet know whether the impact of Covid will reduce those numbers."
Former Black Cap Chris Pringle got a pleasant surprise when he went on Facebook to check the Covid-19 updates and saw the summer cricket schedule.
"It's very exciting and fantastic for the players, especially the local ones."
Pringle said it would do an "enormous amount" for the morale of the region given the "doom and gloom" brought on by the pandemic, with no real end in sight and travel highly restricted.
None of his Christmas or New Year plans would be altered as he tended to spend the summer in the Bay - unless there was a Boxing Day test in Melbourne - as Mount Maunganui and Tauranga was "the best place in the world to be over summer".
The tests, which he believed would sell out, would be the icing on the cake of what is always a good summer in the area: "The weather's good, there's sports activity including the cricket, great beaches, cafes, and restaurants."
He said the mental health and wellbeing of the players who would need to go into managed isolation for two weeks also needed to be considered.
As far as placing his bets went, he said it was too far out to know who would win.
"New Zealand at home is fashioning such a great record. The last four or five years under Kane's leadership has been sensational ... but it's really hard to know."
Pringle was a fast bowler who played 14 tests and 64 one-day internationals for New Zealand from 1990-1995, making his test debut against Pakistan at Karachi in 1990.
Tourism Bay of Plenty head of destination marketing Kath Low said events like the Boxing Day test were "fantastic incentives to travel to Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty."
"We know from previous international cricket events held in Tauranga that the Bay Oval is very popular for the teams and New Zealand Cricket. It's a magical setting and from an international media perspective it provides the region with fantastic coverage around the world.
"Summer is a busy time in the Bay of Plenty. This event will bring even more visitors to the region and by showing them a warm welcome (manaakitanga) and friendly smile, local businesses will play an important role in providing these visitors a positive experience."
In 2018 the Bay Oval cricket season, which included five one-day internationals, pumped about $20 million into the local economy.