Cricket World Cup starts long run-up
The Cricket World Cup trophy had its own seat on the plane, a minder with a thousand-yard stare who never let it out of his sight and it was the most popular of photo requests yesterday.
The trophy yesterday appeared in three of the country's seven One-Year-To-Go celebrations at each of New Zealand's host cities, marking, funnily enough, a year to go until the start of the 2015 World Cup.
Shiny, gold and adorned with badges for each of the winners, the trophy was centre of attention as it travelled from Auckland to Wellington then Christchurch yesterday with its entourage, outshining Cricket World Cup ambassadors Dean Jones, Sunil Gavaskar, Sir Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe.
To look after such precious cargo organisers opted for experience.
In charge is John Campbell - not the television guy, though he gets that all the time - the same man who looked after the Rugby World Cup two years ago. He might have an interesting CV, but don't mess with him.
There are two trophies. A perfect replica is made for each four- yearly tournament and awarded to the winner.
Australia have four of their own, permanent versions from winning the tournament so they have the replica for promotions; New Zealand gets the good one.
Organisers of yesterday's festivities were rapt with the turnout throughout the country and are expecting big things when public ticket sales open today at 2pm.
New Zealand hosts 23 games, three each in the seven host cities as well as a quarterfinal in Wellington and a semifinal in Auckland.
While the trophy was the star, "the talent" was also popular yesterday, especially Gavaskar among the Indian community. One family in Auckland barrelled Crowe, Jones and Hadlee out of the way for a chance to pose with India's first Little Master.
Gavaskar won the World Cup, as did Jones, the latter missing no opportunity to remind the Kiwis of that fact. Tongue in cheek, of course. Probably.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown got into the spirit of the event and faced up to Black Caps quick bowler Mitchell McClenaghan. He didn't trouble the scorers. Earlier Jones faced up to Hadlee and drove a ball back past him, elegantly.
"Mate, that's the first one you've pitched up in 30 years," he mocked.
Hadlee beat the bat with the next ball.
Brown, Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Christchurch's Lianne Dalziel and four other mayors all unveiled countdown clocks attached to giant white cricket balls in each city.
But the trophy and cricketing greats were the fans' favourites. They were all professional with the cameras on, but hilarious when they were off.
Jones and Hadlee sparred all day, but it wasn't the serious angst the pair shared in the mid- 80s - this was the jovial banter of past foes with nothing but respect for each other.
Hadlee was quick to remind Jones of their test encounters as Jones' form in tests against the cricketing knight was poor - but so was that of most batsmen.
Jones defended himself, pointing out a couple of dodgy umpire decisions and his 107 in a ODI against Hadlee and New Zealand in Christchurch in 1990.
And the fact his only test wicket was Hadlee.
"That's my most embarrassing cricketing moment," Hadlee added.
Jones continued to tease Hadlee, something most can't get away with.
"Sir Richard, did you hear why they filmed The Hobbit in New Zealand? To save $20 million on makeup."
Hadlee managed a smirk, but only a small one. His smile was far bigger when punters brought up the 1992 World Cup opener in which New Zealand beat an Australian side featuring Jones. The crowds in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were impressive considering the tournament is a year away.
CWC's New Zealand boss Therese Walsh couldn't have been happier about that and was keeping a close eye on proceedings throughout the country.
New Zealand Cricket boss David White popped up at the Wellington launch and he was only too happy to talk World Cup - it is after all, a better subject than booze-fuelled off-field incidents his organisation has been dealing with. Again.
"Cricket World Cup is a fantastic opportunity for us to touch people with cricket," he said. "And hopefully have what happened in 1992 with a real spike in interest."
New Zealand Cricket have a number of plans in place to capitalise on the momentum the World Cup is already creating.
If the organisers can keep up that momentum and the enthusiasm of the punters yesterday, it's bound to be a roaring success.
- The Press