Down memory lane

There is greatness in the air on the morning of the Wellington Test. Sunil Gavaskar, Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe gather to mark the beginning of the countdown for ICC World Cup 2015. By S. Dinakar.

The Test match fever has caught on. The drop-in pitch at the Eden Park is the centre of attraction. Meanwhile, pressure is building on the Indian team. After a disappointing ODI series, the side has to pick itself up in Tests.

The Kiwis are still rejoicing after their comprehensive 4-0 success in the ODIs. A reception is hosted for them in Auckland ahead of the Test. The Indian team is present on the occasion too. Bhangra is thrown into the mix as well but there is little for the Indians to celebrate.

Despite the Test series approaching, considerable focus is on the IPL auction. Fat contracts beckon some of the Kiwi stars and Corey Anderson is among them.

Anderson talks about an innings that changed his life — his world record 36-ball ODI hundred against the West Indies in Queenstown on January 1 this year.

“It was a crazy day for me out there. Actually, we thought we would never play the match because of the rain,” the all-rounder said.

The crowds are less for the first Test at the Eden Park, compared to the huge turnout for the ODIs.

Yet a small bunch of Indian supporters, seated next to the Press Box, prove a valiant lot. Despite the precarious situations India finds itself in, they sing, dance and shout words of encouragement to Dhoni’s men.

India stages a dramatic comeback and these fans, who lift the spirits of their team, deserve a slice of the credit.

Among the more humorous lines from the aficionados is — “Choli ke peeche kya hai? Choli ke peeche hai Kohli!”

India eventually finishes at the wrong end of the result in a thrilling finish. The side’s disastrous run away from home since the tour of England in 2011 continues.

The crowd melts. And the New Zealand team and its support staff gather near the pitch for a huddle. This is an efficient, united bunch, that punches above its weight.

The series moves to Wellington, the final destination of the tour. Basin Reserve is the spiritual home of New Zealand cricket.

It is here that New Zealand met England in a Test way back in 1930. The ground’s subsequent history has been so well preserved and it plays in your mind’s eye.

The pictures in the Long Room celebrate the past and also reflect cricket’s changing times.

Situated in the Old Grandstand, the museum is a treasure trove of cricket books and artefacts. It has a lending library where fans can get to read some of the rarest literature on the game.

The Basin Reserve is truly among the exceptional cricketing venues in the world. It has a very open feel to it with low hills, dotted by trees, on three sides.

From the Press Box you can see vehicles zipping past on the city roads. And the mountains provide a spectacular backdrop.

The winds sweeping across the ground can throw up varying challenges to the cricketers. Basin Reserve has loads of character.

There is greatness in the air on the morning of the Test. Sunil Gavaskar, Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe gather to mark the beginning of the countdown for ICC World Cup 2015. Dean Jones, that quintessential ODI cricketer, is present too.

It’s February 14 and the mega-event begins exactly a year from now. The presence of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key lends the official stamp of approval to the event.

Gavaskar, Hadlee, Crowe and Jones recollect their fond moments from the competition. Two of them, Gavaskar and Jones, have featured in World Cup-winnings sides.

Memories never fade and nostalgia swirls around. Delightful vignettes from the days gone by fill the air at Basin Reserve.

Sportstar catches up with Hadlee. Years have rolled by but the legendary cricketer still evokes awe. Not many could do things with the ball he did.

Hadlee, his gait straight and gaze powerful, talks about the joys of playing for one’s country; something that cannot be swapped for anything else.

“We played for pride and glory,” he says. True words from a champion cricketer.

Times are different now and money is at the heart of it. At the IPL auction Anderson lands a big one with Mumbai Indians. “The feeling is rather surreal. It is yet to sink in,” he says.

Meanwhile, reports trickle in from India about deep-rooted corruption in the IPL. Names of Indian cricketers allegedly involved in deliberately underperforming are doing the rounds. Predictably, the Indian team-management clamps down on the media.

Crowds throng the venue for the Test. And the hills bask in the sunshine. Surprisingly, the winds stay away. The setting for cricket is perfect.

The celebratory mood in the Test continues. Martin Crowe and his brave men, who defied the odds to reach the semifinals of the ’92 World Cup, have a re-union at the Basin Reserve during the second day.

They perform a lap of the ground during the tea interval and the crowd roars to celebrate the heroes of the 1990s. New Zealand’s stirring run in the World Cup captured the nation’s imagination like few other competitions had done.

Away from cricket, it’s summer time in Wellington and the streets wear a carnival look. Famous for its vibrant art and cultural scene, the city is throbbing with life. Bands play on the streets, the bistros are full and there are queues outside theatres. Welcome to Wellington.