Could Corona-Free New Zealand Be A Neutral Venue For Cricket Matches?
“I could see New Zealand as a safe place to work. That’s a definite possibility, “New Zealand Cricket Players Association CEO Heath Mills said, quoted by a leading news article. It’s been a week since most of the limitations in effect were removed by the New Zealand government as the country formally became free of COVID-19.
Live sport is all set to make a come back this Saturday (June 13, 2020) in New Zealand. The first Super Rugby game since the Coronavirus outbreak is being played at Dunedin between Highlanders v Chiefs. It is expected that roughly 20,000 fans will fill the stadium.
In the meantime, New Zealand cricket is preparing itself to represent other countries as a neutral host. Reports are coming in that India, England and Sri Lanka could play a tri-series later this year in New Zealand. Earlier, Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, had announced proposals from New Zealand and Australia to host county cricket.
For other cricketing nations still recovering from the epidemic of the Coronavirus, New Zealand may well be the location where they are holding international matches for sport and financial purposes. The Men’s ODI World Cup runners-up may act in the coming months as a neutral venue for other nations, as well as county cricket.
It does however come with its own set of challenges. How does New Zealand cricket mean if and when it does happen? What problems will they face on-field and off-the-field? What are its strategic viabilities? And so on. Cricxtasy got in contact with Michael Wagener, a New Zealand journalist, to shed some light on them.
With the objective that New Zealand would serve as neutral hosts as a whole, Wagener said that from a pure cricketing perspective it was a sensible decision, whereas the commercial aspect could be tricky. As for the playing conditions, he said, “Our soil is similar to that of England and our weather is similar. (It rains a little bit more, it is a little warmer, the sun is much more intense,and winds tend to go over the ground here, not down the ground – but New Zealand is still more similar than almost anywhere else). If we used the Dukes pitch, so far as the cricket goes, it would be close to playing in England.’
Figures from the last four years, confirm the argument made by Wagener. Test batting average in England since June 2016 is 27.30 compared to 32.23 in New Zealand. Likewise, England’s bowling average over that time is 28.23 and New Zealand’s 33.32. If anything, it might that the gap with the Dukes disk. The gap isn’t even important in One Day Internationals.
Administrative Challenges Of Venues:
While, we need to explore other variables. New Zealand has used 13 venues in the last 10 years to host men’s internationals. The Plunkett Shield for 2019-20 occurred in 10 fields. Now, in plain sight, it would seem unlikely to host county matches with certain venues in addition to the regular schedule.There are, however, a small number of grounds used for school cricketing and domestic competitions of lower grades. Mills had previously talked on concerns around school cricket broadcasting.
Wagener is expressing a similar viewpoint about the number of venues. He said some New Zealand grounds could host only one match all season. “Some have full setups for broadcasting too. For example, there are four grounds in Northern Districts that have hosted matches on television. There are three districts in Auckland, Otago and Central, two in Wellington, six in Canterbury, “he said. NZC might provide the ECB with a few grounds to conduct a shortened county cricket season.
It is an arduous job to be able to bring down players from various nations, quarantine them and make them play in bio-safe conditions. Official procedures can be the biggest barrier. This may not be something where the NZC can make independent decisions, given the “super-safe” approach taken by the government. “Our government refused to lift restrictions until there was not a single case left, despite the experts saying weeks earlier that the epidemic was now under control and we should go back to normal,” Wagener said, adding that the government could be hard to convince.He added that the NZC would have to prove to the government that bringing in 700-odd people from some global coronavirus hotspots could offer some financial benefit.
Broadcasting Rights And Time Zone Conundrum:
The most critical question about acting as a neutral host in New Zealand is-why? Is it either restarting sport or making money in the midst of a pandemic? Since it could be the latter, the issue is intricate when it boils down to broadcasting revenue for all the more reason to think. This season, NZC has a new broadcasting partner-Spark sport.
For NZC to make money by hosting county cricket, Wagener feels that smaller towns should get some formidable local support from the teams. The significant population of English immigrants could add value to that. “For example , having Whangārei-based Somerset could encourage some of the Whangārei locals to adopt them for the season,” he said.
However, if New Zealand ‘s intention to play is purely financial, then it may be fruitless as broadcast timings are the biggest concern. “For the subcontinent, the time zones are bad but they are appalling for England. A standard cricket day here begins around 9 pm in England and runs through to 4:30 am, “Wagener added.
When one has to think about the challenges of hosting neutral matches at NZC, there are many things to factor into. For a cricket enthusiast, having been robbed of it, it might just be about getting to see some cricket. It could be an immense obstacle for the NZC, from an administrative perspective. They are in a very good place for other boards to conduct international matches. The financial aspect of that, however, is not very viable. If the boards try to make any share that comes out of it, then it might well happen.
Wagener puts that here more precisely. “Realistically it would be a financial debacle if England were to move their season to New Zealand – it would be good for cricketing reasons, but it would be a big stretch financially to make it work.”