One down and four to go. Tauranga’s summer of international cricket matches is underway – further cementing this city as a truly global international cricket venue. The backdrop is superb, the climate ideal and the venue without peer.
Even the salt mountain at the Dominion plant over the back fence has become part of the Bay Oval charm, a defining feature.
“It just gets bigger and bigger,” says Kelvin Jones, doyen of Bay Oval. “Feels that way for us.”
The Bay Oval general manager ended last season thinking that could have been his biggest for a while with the Under 19 World Cup and the One Day International against England.
“Now we are into a season that feels even bigger with five ODIs.” Throw the biggest cricket audience in the world into the mix – that’s India with tens of million watching on TV. “You just think ‘wow’, and it keeps getting bigger.”
And in the back of Kelvin’s mind all the time is test cricket – when will it arrive at the Bay Oval?
“We think we are really close. We aren’t entirely sure why we haven’t got there yet.”
One answer could be there’s less test cricket to go round in NZ, perhaps just four tests per summer. And there are at least three venues that consider themselves established test venues in NZ. “We are competing for that fourth test I suppose,” says Kelvin.
“We’re always thinking about a bit of pink ball. With the best lights in the country, we should be favoured if there was a pink ball test – it should come our way.”
There can be no question about the cricket facilities being up to scratch. “None whatsoever. We could list where we consider ourselves the number one venue in NZ in so many cricket-related areas.”
But there may be some work to do off-field. “We have got by with a whole lot of temporary overlay in the past and you can do that for a 20-over game or an ODI. But your other facilities have to become greater over five days.”
But no doubt about it – Bay Oval must be in the mix for test cricket and it will come. “We won’t be satisfied until we are a test venue.”
ODI cricket still to be played this summer at Bay Oval are Black Caps versus Sri Lanka tomorrow, Saturday, January 5; Black Caps versus India on Saturday, January 26; Black Caps versus India on Monday, January 28; and the following day, Tuesday, January 29, White Ferns versus India.