Despite recent reports in the New Zealand Press Association that Queenstown could become the latest venue in the country to gain Test status, a local source has claimed this would in fact be highly unlikely.
According to the article, the Queenstown Events Centre is in contention to host a Test during Australia's tour in February-March 2005. The ground has so far hosted two one-dayers, and it only became a first-class venue in 2001-02. It has, however, won plenty of acclaim for its breathtakingly beautiful location, but the likely lack of numbers in attendance, along with its below-par facilities, means that it may have to wait longer to gain Test status.
"The Australian games are the big attractions for NZC (New Zealand cricket board), and it is highly probable that the games will go to the three main centres, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch," the local source said. "That is where the best crowds will be. While on the last tour a game was played at Hamilton, it was because Jade Stadium in Christchurch had become a problem and was out of use while the portable pitch technology was developed."
He continued, "Also, Queenstown doesn't yet have the sort of facilities that would allow it to be a host venue for a Test match, and in March it would not have the crowd support. It is at its best during the peak of holiday time, post Christmas-January. Even a Test against Sri Lanka in that time would be a big test for the set-up there."
Graeme Elliott, the chief executive of Otago Cricket Association, confirmed that Queenstown was being discussed as a Test venue, but indicated that no final decision had been taken yet. "New Zealand Cricket ultimately make the decisions on where internationals are played."
New Zealand have a mixed record at the ground - they won their first one-dayer there - against India in 2002-03 - by seven wickets, but were thrashed by six wickets in their next game, against Pakistan last season. After that game Javed Miandad, the coach of that Pakistan side, had high praise for the venue, suggesting that it was good enough to host Tests.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Cricket is also considering scrapping the Boxing Day Test next season, and replacing it with a one-dayer. The Basin Reserve at Wellington has hosted a Boxing Day Test five times in the last six years, but the NZPA report suggests that Auckland's Eden Park could get a one-dayer on December 26 instead.