World Cup game possible for Hagley Oval
The 2015 Cricket World Cup (CWC) organisers have given their biggest hint yet that Christchurch will host a match of significance if some remaining hurdles are cleared.
Visiting Christchurch for the first time, Australian-based CWC chief executive John Harnden said yesterday that his organisation was excited about the Garden City hosting World Cup games and they were a "tremendous opportunity for Christchurch and a tremendous opportunity for the World Cup".
There is still a major obstacle to overcome. It is expected a bid will be submitted by the closing deadline on Tuesday next week but then the controversial Hagley Oval development needs to be approved by the Environment Court. It will conduct a hearing next year.
Harnden went on a tour of Christchurch yesterday and visited the new Hagley Oval pitch and outfield development with the CWC's New Zealand boss Therese Walsh, Canterbury Cricket chief executive Lee Germon and council staff.
He was impressed and said his organisation was committed to doing what it could to bring a major game to Christchurch.
"We'd love to be in a position to do something special here," he said.
Walsh, formerly the chief operating officer of last year's Rugby World Cup, backed Harnden's sentiments especially after the city missed out on rugby's showpiece.
"The Rugby World Cup was just horrible in terms of having to take it away from Christchurch and it was a major loss to the tournament," she said.
"We'd hate for the same thing to happen with the Cricket World Cup. Options are being discussed, but we're waiting for all the bids to come in before the real discussions take place.
"Whether it's an opening match or something else, we would be keen to do something special in Christchurch. Assuming there is a reasonable submission, then we would like to do something that is a kind of keynote for Christchurch."
Walsh all but ruled out a semifinal or quarterfinal match being played in the city, but said a major game featuring "big guns" such as England, South Africa or India could be played at Hagley, or it could be a Black Caps' match.
"We've certainly discussed Christchurch as an opening match [venue]. Depending how it stacks up against other bids, there's certainly a nice appeal about the opening match being here."
Although every effort would be made to help Christchurch play a big part in the tournament, Walsh said there were deadlines and ICC regulations that needed to be met.
"At the end of the day, there has to be an ICC-compliant venue. We can make a range of concessions about a host of other things, but there has to be an ICC-compliant venue and it's got to be ready in time - those are non-negotiable."
Harnden also warned the venue had to be up to standard.
If done haphazardly, hosting matches could do more harm than good to Christchurch's reputation, he said.
- Walsh, a New Zealand Cricket board member, refused to answer any questions about dumped Black Caps captain Ross Taylor or board members resigning.
Board chairman Chris Moller and chief executive David White will front a press conference in Wellington today.