Eden Park has one major thing going for it as a cricket ground.
By New Zealand standards, it can fit a lot of people in, providing an amazing atmosphere while delighting the bean counters now and then. A couple of sensational World Cup occasions, in particular, attest to that.
But the Eden Park number one ground is to cricket what Trent Boult is to batting — more exotic than genuinely wonderful. Eden Park only succeeds, very occasionally, despite itself.
I've been going to Eden Park for 45 years, experienced some of the most memorable days there and also some of the worst, for rugby, league and cricket.
It was a kind of temple as a kid, or the promised land. There was nothing more enticing in life than turning a corner from Dominion Rd, seeing the back of the stands, and perhaps hearing the roar or murmur of the crowd drifting towards you. Game on, heart racing.
The best of days there, cricket wise, came when ODIs hit a crescendo and we had Richard Hadlee.
Spectators could bring their own chilly bins, and they sure did. The atmosphere on the concrete stands was magnificent — unruly and rowdy. To be brutally honest about it, drunkenness was part of the deal. The fuel fuelled the atmosphere. There was chanting, humour, and horror of horrors ice throwing battles.
On quieter days, and there were a lot of them, it could be a soul-less concrete abomination. There was one bloke who loved paying homage to the old Auckland cricketer Ross Morgan — the shout of Moooooooooorgan would echo around the ground, around and around.
My guess is that Aucklanders feel far more emotionally attached to Eden Park as a rugby ground, despite obvious deficiencies, than they do about it as a cricket arena even if T20 gives the old ground some wiggle room. Anyway, the memory says there were a few good cricket times, that Eden Park had its place. Just.
But I certainly don't recall anyone claiming that Eden Park was a great cricket ground despite its historical importance including as the venue for this country's first test win, over the West Indies in the 1950s.
Back in the day, the pitch was a lifeless dud. The drop in pitches have solved that, but the playing area has always been too small, and the arena way too big.
Even though Eden Park started off in the hands of cricket, it got throttled by rugby. When there were moves to turn the Outer Oval into an ICC-validated ground, the Eden Park Trust Board wouldn't play ball.
Read more: Eden Park slammed as Twenty20 venue
New Zealand Cricket abandoned it as a test venue for about seven years, with only a couple of tests there since. It's very difficult to defend a venue, for a major sport in the major city, when the people who run the game don't even like it totally.
All credit to the veteran Australian commentator Jim Maxwell, when he pointed out one of the ground's shortcomings, namely its shortness, after the T20 smash-up there on Friday night.
Australians talk more directly than we often do, and Maxwell's call for the ground to be banned gets his point across. Whatever the loophole, the fact is Eden Park isn't up to modern playing size standards. Maxwell has done those of us who want to keep the stadium debate alive a major and credible favour.
In response to Maxwell, Eden Park boss Nick Sautner — who will naturally defend his patch — reckoned: "The best way to respond is to ask Mitch Grimstone, who bagged an impressive one-handed catch and $50,000, along with his mates and the other 33,000 attendees, what they think of the size of the boundaries?! "
Okay, I'll play that game like this. It would be great to plonk the happy 33,000 in a proper, modern cricket ground, and ask for comparisons. Mitch or his mates could still bag a $50k catch in that, if that's the measure of a ground.
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