'Postman' Gavin Larsen set to deliver World Cup

TONY BIRD
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014
Gavin Larsen
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

HERO WORSHIP: Gavin Larsen is surrounded by young fans who were part of a 50-strong group of New Plymouth secondary school cricketers getting a few tips on how to play the game.

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Kiwi cricket legend Gavin Larsen is counting down to the 2015 Cricket World Cup and this week talked to sports reporter Tony Bird about his job as New Zealand World Cup operations manager.

In his playing days, Gavin Larsen's nickname was "The Postman" because he always delivered on the cricket pitch.

The former Black Caps medium pace bowler turned operations manager is aiming to deliver to the game that remains his passion.

Larsen was in New Plymouth this week, not only to fly the World Cup flag, but to address the Sport Taranaki Coaches club and speak to secondary school age cricketers.

Excitement is building around preparations for next year's big event being co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia which kicks off in Christchurch with a match between the Black Caps and Sri Lanka at the new Hagley Park grounds on February 14.

The tournament, the first in Australasia since 1992, is expected to prove a bonanza for tourism numbers, accommodation and hospitality businesses not only in the seven lucky host cities in New Zealand, but around the country.

"I'm conscious that there's no World Cup games here in Taranaki, but to me, it's bloody vital that we pull the whole nation together and get everyone swimming in the same direction," said Larsen.

"The more noise we can create in the non-match areas the better it will be for the World Cup."

The 51-year-old Wellingtonian said the tournament was aimed at building a legacy for the game to last well into the future.

"I think the legacy component of all this is vital. To me, from a New Zealand Cricket (NZC) point of view, NZC will do very well financially. But there's a dividend other than the quantum, so that allows them to finally, after a few years, re-invest in the game in New Zealand."

He said one legacy is around physical structure for the seven New Zealand venues.

"That can be anything such as CTV inside the changing room areas, which is funded by the ICC, to fitting out of changing rooms and also new cricket nets if they're needed. So in five or six years time, I'd like to go into say Seddon Park in Hamilton and say that's really cool and that's there because of the World Cup."

Larsen said the other legacy is even more important. "I'm a bit of a grassroots man and it's about the youth in New Zealand, about creating some kind of legacy and getting kids involved around the passion of the game and to pick up a bat and play the game."

Larsen believes the tournament will result in a rise in playing numbers in New Zealand. "There was in 1992. I've heard numbers of between 10 and 20 per cent. That's massive. If we say there are 100,000 registered cricketers in here, an extra 10,000 cricketers are generated around New Zealand."

There was, however, a challenge for administrators that goes with this, involving facilities.

"You've got to have the infrastructure in place so cricketers can go and play the game. If you get those sort of numbers, you don't want to annoy players and their parents and turn them away due to a lack of facilities. Competitions have got to be set up. That's a big ask."

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So what actually are Larsen and his team's responsibilities to the ICC?

"I've got an equivalent [Bernard Moran] across the ditch in Melbourne and we report to the chief executive officers in each country," Larsen said, adding the day-to-day passing of information was going extremely well.

"I've grasped it pretty quickly. When you're running a major event of this magnitude, it's massive. We have 40 fulltime staff in Wellington already and they have 50 in Melbourne. If you had said to me when I started last year that we would have 40 fulltimers a year out from the the World Cup, I would have said ‘go on'.

"When I see the workload going through that office by absolute event specialists I'm astounded," Larsen said.

Apart from operations, Larsen has got team services to oversee.

"Their job is to look after all the requirements of the teams from the time they arrive in New Zealand right though to when they depart."

He said the schedule covers teams getting from A to B, airport transfers, accommodation, hotel deals, making sure security is in place around anti-corruption, catering for the needs of coaches and their support staff.

The list goes on and on and includes the setting up of practice facilities and making sure all the venues are at World Cup standard when the event rolls around.

All of the event employees are on short term employment contracts.

"Once the World Cup is finished they're all out looking for a job again. There's a lot of event junkies that follow the events around the world," he said, adding some have just left Sochi after helping organise the Winter Olympics in Russia.

Larsen admitted at first he found the job quite daunting.

"I think there's light at the end of the tunnel now, but if you'd asked me that six months ago I would have said I'm here and I'm trying to get my nose above the water.

"We've reached the stage now where we are getting into detailed planning for each of the venues.

"So I'm doing quite a bit of travelling at the moment and meeting up with councils, turf managers and any of the other stake holders you need to have a yarn with. There are little hot spots all around the country, that's the nature of the beast.

"It's not a perfect science either - you're growing grass, so we've had some issues at some venues. We've had outfield drainage being tidied up at McLean Park and upgraded at the Saxton Oval in Nelson."

Add the development of the Hagley Park cricket ground, which Larsen said was going to be fantastic.

"The [cricket] block and the outfield are perfect," he said.

"It's on track for the World Cup."

FAST FACTS

2015 Cricket World Cup Tournament will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand

14 teams: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, West Indies and Zimbabwe

14 host cities: Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Canberra, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Hobart, Napier, Nelson, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Wellington

42 pool matches: Three in each host city

Every visiting team plays in both countries

Children's tickets available for every match

Children's tickets $5 for every pool match

Children's tickets for quarterfinals $20, semifinals $30, final $60

Adults' tickets from $20

New Zealand will host a quarterfinal and a semifinal

- Taranaki Daily News

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