West Indies give Saxton Oval thumbs-up for 2015

World cup venue gets seal of approval

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 13:00 22/01/2014
Nelson cricket
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

TOGA PARTY: Colourful fans James Young, left, Damon Bunting, Jack Wormald and Glen Leadbetter at the Black Caps-West Indies one-day international helped give Saxton Oval’s cricket credentials a lift.

Martin Guptill stndrd
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ
VENUE SATISFACTORY: The fourth one-day international between the West Indies and Black Caps at Saxton Oval earlier this month gave the West Indies some insight about the venue they will be playing at in next year’s World Cup.

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The small-town charm of Nelson and the intimate ground at Saxton Oval won over the West Indies cricket team ahead of a return trip next year.

The West Indies open their ICC cricket world cup campaign in Nelson, with a match against Ireland on February 16, 2015. After a debrief on returning to the Caribbean, West Indies assistant coach Andre Coley told the Nelson Mail that they hope to return to Nelson with a winning formula.

"It's always good to have an idea about the environment in which you are going to play in international sport," Coley said. "Now that we have been [to Nelson], we will know what to expect next time and can better prepare for it."

The West Indies were beaten by the Black Caps and the weather as the Duckworth-Lewis method was used to award New Zealand a 58-run victory earlier this month. It was a historic day for cricket in Nelson and one the West Indies genuinely enjoyed being part of.

"Because it was the first time a West Indies team was playing in this town and it was also the first one-day international at Saxton Oval, it was an extra-special occasion."

Coley, a former international left-hand batsman and most recently coach of Jamaica, said the West Indies are used to playing on the biggest stages, like Lord's Cricket Ground and the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"[Playing in Nelson], however, gave us an opportunity to see what a small town in New Zealand had to offer and we were impressed. The little we got a chance to see, it would seem worthwhile to make an opportunity to explore next time."

But when the West Indies return, it won't be for a holiday. They will be about the very serious business of winning a World Cup. They want the chance to add to the world Twenty20 crown they won in Sri Lanka in 2012.

They will also face an Irish side who have proved they are very capable of causing an upset at World Cups. In 2007 Ireland defeated Pakistan and in 2011 Ireland chased down 328 runs to claim a famous victory over England.

The West Indies have an advantage after playing on the World Cup pitch. However, Coley said it was difficult to give a broad assessment of the pitch because the weather affected the game.

"The pitch spent a lot of time under the covers due to the weather, but for a game of international standard, the pitch played well. The ball moved around a bit, but the bounce was predictable. There was enough in it for the bowlers, but I think there was a balance and the batsmen could also get value for their shots."

He said the facilities were "very comfortable" but also said there were "a few minor issues" that could improve the experience for players ahead of the world cup.

He hoped to see nothing but blue skies on the team's return but thought there should be better protection from the weather in the viewing area for the players. He also pointed out that not all the players like to sit outside and follow the game, suggesting television monitors need to be installed in the changing rooms.

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He also said the installation of hot and cold tubs to assist with the players' physical recovery should be "strongly considered".

But minor gripes aside, Coley said it was refreshing to visit a ground where the embankment allows the fans to sit so close to the action.

"It brings the spectators much closer to the game which is very different from what we know in the Caribbean, where it is a bit more sterile with huge stands at the main venues.

"The pavilion is aesthetically very pleasing and quite unique. It's not the standard run-of-the-mill pavilion. It obviously has a bit of character about it. The backdrop of the mountains did not hurt the atmosphere."

Coley, on behalf of the West Indies, gave Saxton Oval his seal of approval and said he hoped Nelson would get more international games in the future and in the leadup to next year's world cup.

"There was a bit of interaction with the people and they seemed very keen to have us in the town and play at Saxton Oval.

"Whatever matches are played at the ground, I expect them to be entertaining and of a high standard, and the number of spectators that came out . . . it augurs well for Nelson as they look to develop the venue going forward."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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