August 3, 2001

ND Chief criticises England tour venues

Claims that the New Zealand Cricket board's decision to play the Tests against England next summer at Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland were based on "parochial bias" were made yesterday by John Turkington, chief executive of the Northern Districts Association.

Obviously upset that Hamilton's WestpacTrust Park had not been included in the English itinerary, Turkington levelled most of his criticism at the NZC board.

"The NZC board members are from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and those are the centres that have got the England Tests, said Turkington.

"This goes against the wishes of the NZC staff, and the direction from an NZC board meeting last April. The minutes from that meeting contained the comment that the major Test centres should not have priority."

Turkington said there had been widespread support for Hamilton to stage an England Test next season.

"This has come in letters from district associations in the South Island, and from people such as the New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming and the national coach David Trist.

In a letter to Turkington after New Zealand's defeat of Pakistan at Hamilton last season, Fleming stated " was fantastic turning up at a venue that has pride in what it can offer and in a country where dual-purpose grounds dominate it was refreshing to play on a park that gives your sport its total focus."

Turkington also said that John Reid, the NZC operations manager, told a recent groundsmen's conference in Rotorua that conditions at WestpacTrust Park were so good the New Zealand players would prefer to play all their home tests there.

Answering the comment that WestpacTrust Park might not easily handle the bigger crowds that would watch an England test - the possible strength of England's celebrated Barmy Army of supporters is estimated at 5000 people - Turkington said "WestpacTrust Park was being re-modelled and would easily take a bigger crowd.

"We are putting up temporary stands for the Waikato rugby matches there this winter and plan to leave a 1000-seat temporary stand intact for the cricket.

"This will be sited at the western end of the ground, leaving the larger grass banks free at the other end of the ground.

"We have all the resource consents in hand now for the installation of floodlighting and the building of toilets and other facilities," said Turkington.

The future capacity of WestpacTrust Park will be about 16,000.

In contrast, Turkington said that the Bangladesh test, at WestpacTrust Park on December 18-22, could not expect to be a box-office success.

"Just imagine the public interest in a team like Bangladesh starting a Test on a Tuesday and a week before Christmas, when the people will not be thinking about cricket.

"A test, then, will be a nothing."