New Zealand cricket October 15, 2012

Save Basin Reserve for cricket

Tim Jones
The New Zealand government, led by Prime Minister John Key, has set out on a massive road-building programme, part of which involves building a new motorway past Basin Reserve

Imagine you're at a Test match at Basin Reserve, New Zealand's iconic cricket ground, located a few minutes' walk from the centre of Wellington. Virat Kohli is at the crease. He's on 99, eyeing up the options for his century: perhaps a push into the covers, perhaps a leg glance. The bowler runs in, thinking he has a chance, thinking that Kohli might be distracted by the impending century. He gathers himself, leaps, delivers. The ball is overpitched outside off stump, perfect for a cover drive. But as Kohli prepares to play it, he is distracted by the roar of a truck as it races along the motorway flyover that arches past the north-eastern boundary of the ground. All he manages is a tentative push, and the ball nestles in the keeper's gloves. It's just a pity for the home fans that the umpire can't hear the snick above the roar of the traffic.

Sounds far-fetched? Unfortunately, the threat is all too real. Basin Reserve, New Zealand's iconic cricket ground, the scene of 53 Test matches since 1930, the ground where Daniel Vettori took his first Test wicket, faces its greatest challenge. The New Zealand government, led by Prime Minister John Key, has set out on a massive road-building programme, largely to meet the demands of the powerful trucking lobby, who want to fill up New Zealand roads with ever bigger trucks. Part of that road-building programme involves building a new motorway past Basin Reserve.

With an arrogance that is matched only by their ignorance of cricket, the motorway planners have decided to put that motorway on a flyover that would arc around the north-eastern side of the ground. When these plans were first outlined, the motorway promoters claimed that they would build a new grandstand at the Basin to block out the sight and sound of the motorway. But now the plans have been officially announced, they don't include a new grandstand - apparently it will cost too much.

Even if the new grandstand was in place, it would be a partial solution at best. If the motorway builders get their way, cricket at the Basin will be played - if it's played at all - over the thrum of wheels and the roaring of engines. There are much better options: investing more in public transport to reduce road congestion, making roading improvements at ground level, or even continuing the motorway tunnel that is being built west of the Basin right under the Basin itself.

What's more, the motorway builders of the New Zealand Transport Agency are asking for more and more public money at a time when money is very tight. So a lot of the New Zealand public, including people who aren't cricket fans, want these projects to be stopped. What can we do? That the good opinion of cricket-playing countries is important to the current government is apparent. So maybe it's time for concerned cricket fans, from New Zealand and elsewhere, to remind the government of what the people want; tell the prime minister, in an email, that you want Basin Reserve left in peace as a cricket ground, not ruined by a motorway flyover. It will only take a few moments of your time, but it could make all the difference in the world to Basin Reserve.