By Scott MacLean
On Friday Wellington played host to the fifth and final ODI in the series against Pakistan. Roughly 4,500 people were there to watch it.
On Monday Wellington played host to the first of the T20 against the same opposition. Roughly 8,700 people were there to watch it.
If you were talking about the crowd numbers – or lack of – you’d be talking about the ODI wouldnt you?
But this being about Wellington, the difference between the two games was the venue. Thursday’s ODI was played down at the Basin Reserve, the grand old lady of New Zealand cricket, Monday’s T20 at the other end of town at Westpac Stadium. One the ground looked full, the other a concrete canyon of yellow seats.
To cut off the predictable hindsight “the T20 should have been at the Basin” calls, the past 24 hours have highlighted one thing; many know the capacity of Westpac – its just shy of 35,000 – but few know that the Basin is currently restricted to less than 6,500. Had the T20 been played there roughly a third of the people who showed up to Westpac wouldn’t have got in the door.
Pick your poison from a Public Relations perspective.
Never mind of course that this was a second game against the same opposition in four days (and third in a couple of weeks) who have been poor on their tour so far, following on from the Windies who weren’t much chop either. Given that glut of games and with England and Australia on the horizon its understandable that Wellingtonians are probably keeping their cash in hand until then; your scribe is amongst them.
(You can make the argument that its bizarre people arent going to see a dominant, winning side, buts thats a discussion for another day)
The scheduling of the first T20 was curious as well. Wellington Anniversary Day might make some sense at first glance but 4pm seemed a strange choice of start time; it had the feel of a halfway solution between a day game that would suit locals with work the next day and so that the rest of the country could catch it on the telly. Contrast that with this the third T20, scheduled for Mount Maunganui on Sunday with the whole upper North Island having the next day off.
Granted, NZ Cricket probably would have liked to take matches all around the country but this summer they’re somewhat limited in that regard with the U19 World Cup on as well. McLean Park’s litany of issues also has it walking a tightrope on future matches, further reducing the stock in the lower North Island.
Finally there’s the country’s biggest city. Auckland has had half the number of international cricket days in the past decade Wellington has, but that’s as much down to not having a fit for purpose First Class ground, let alone a test one, the limited availability of Eden Park late in the season, and Auckland Cricket’s ongoing refusal to really develop anything anywhere else.
It really does seem somewhat odd to be blaming the people of Wellington in this.
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