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Thursday, July 7, 2022

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Proteas will not experience earthquakes, icy weather but New Zealand tour remains spectacular

New Zealand cricket captain Tom Latham (R) and South Africa's captain Dean Elgar pose for a photograph with the trophy in Christchurch ahead of the first Test. Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/AFP

New Zealand cricket captain Tom Latham (R) and South Africa's captain Dean Elgar pose for a photograph with the trophy in Christchurch ahead of the first Test. Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/AFP

Published Feb 16, 2022


Cape Town - Everyone knows about the tradition and aura surrounding Springbok rugby tours to New Zealand.

I, for obvious reasons, have always been intrigued by cricket ventures in New Zealand, though.

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For me, it has always been one of the most unique tours to undertake, which I had the pleasure of a decade ago in 2012.

New Zealand really is unlike any major cricket-playing country.

Although I witnessed a dramatic upturn in 2015 – when I returned for the one-day international World Cup when Brendon McCullum and his free-swinging troops had the entire country in a frenzy – and perhaps now that Kane Williamson’s team are the world Test champions, things may have changed a bit too, although the general Kiwi on the street is not really too fussed with the Black Caps.

ALSO READ: Dean Elgar says the Proteas know New Zealand will be ’dangerous’ with or without key players

It’s not that they don’t care about their national cricket team. They are simply just occupied with living their best lives in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, where “heroworshipping” simply does not exist.

It is not every day that you will get to see a cyclist on his lunch break ride alongside the outfield while an international team is practising without even glancing over, as it happens at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.

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It’s just one of those Kiwi idiosyncrasies that put many things into perspective, especially after a few tours to the subcontinent.

The climate in New Zealand is also something to behold. Never have I been as cold at a cricket field like I was on the opening day of the Test series at the University Oval in Dunedin in 2012.

The rugby boys had the right idea to build a roof over nearby Forsyth Barr Stadium because I can only imagine what the famous old Carisbrook must have been like on a winter’s day.

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Dean Elgar’s team won’t encounter such extreme temperatures on this tour, with the two-match Test series, starting tomorrow, confined to the Hagley Oval in Christchurch due to Covid-19 restrictions.

It is unfortunate, though, that the Proteas won’t even be able to venture into town to see the remnants of the devastating December 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people, injured thousands and left a trail of destruction.

ALSO READ: ’It’s been a long time coming’, says Rassie van der Dussen on his opportunity to play in the IPL

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I was the sole South African journalist that accompanied the Proteas’ whistle-stop visit to Hagley Oval just a couple of months after the tragedy, with many of the ruins still untouched.

My experience was even more dramatic due to staying the night in Christchurch, unlike the Proteas, who had already returned to Wellington on a chartered plane because of their strict safety protocols, which prohibited them from being placed under any brick-constructed roof at any point during their visit.

It was during that night that Christchurch experienced yet another tremor, with only Morne Morkel’s emergency whistle to keep me company.

Fortunately, Elgar and his troops are unlikely to experience anything like that, with the last earthquake registered in Christchurch in 2016.

They can focus solely on preserving South Africa’s record of not having lost a Test series to New Zealand.

And should they achieve this, it should at least trigger the proverbial cricket Richter scale back in SA, if not in New Zealand…