New Zealand tour diary: A playground for the wind!

When you talk about the Basin in Wellington, you end up speaking about the wind. For a paceman, to bowl against the wind here is among the most physically draining tasks.

Wellington’s cable car climbs 2060 ft, from Lambton Quay to Kelburn, a suburb in the hills, passing through three tunnels and an equal number of bridges.   -  S. Dinakar

As soon as you get down from the aircraft, the strong breeze hits you. Welcome to the New Zealand capital... Windy Wellington has its own charms.

It’s a lively city. You have local musicians playing on the sidewalks, the strings of the guitar producing sounds of rhythm. This has been a busy summer and the bistros are full. So are the hotels and the souvenir stores.

Wellington is a city of ups and downs, on a hilly terrain. For instance, the hotel I am staying in has its reception on the sixth floor, and there’s a separate road leading to it. And when you get into the lift and press ground floor, it leads you straight into the bustling Lambton Quay Street, in the commercial heart of the city.

Meanwhile, both the Indian and the New Zealand cricket teams are in the city for the first Test in the southernmost capital in the world. The practise sessions are intense. Skipper Virat Kohli, typically, exudes confidence ahead of the Test.

The Basin Reserve, the venue for the first Test, is among the great grounds of world cricket. It’s also the soul of New Zealand’s cricket and very picturesque, with hills overlooking the Basin from one side.

And when you talk about the Basin, you end up speaking about the wind. For a paceman, to bowl against the wind here is among the most physically draining tasks.

So the game at the Basin has its own dynamics. The spinner bowling against the wind can get drift and dip, but controlling the ball can be hard in these conditions.

It’s not easy for the batsmen either. They have to hold the bat hard — light bats are never recommended for the Basin Reserve — and keep adjusting their back-lift; the wind can push their bat back.

The Test arrives and the lovely hills that make for stands in these parts are full. It is a wonderful sight, away from those huge concrete structures that comprise stadiums in India. The Test commences and the cricket in the middle is intense. But there are some hilarious moments as well. Like Kane Williamson chasing his cap, blown away by the wind, to a distant corner of the ground. The crowd is in splits.

That was a rare moment in the Test when New Zealand was chasing the game... that is, the cap!

For most part, the host dictated the course of play. Save the Williamson-pursuing-the-cap moment.

Actually, the wind at the Basin was far worse when the Indians toured New Zealand in 2002-03. That was a Test when almost every 10 minutes an Indian or a Kiwi was running behind his cap, causing frequent interruptions in play.

The Basin Reserve is the soul of New Zealand’s cricket and very picturesque, with hills overlooking it from one side.   -  Getty Images

 

Back to the present. The Indian cricket team has a vast following and the group, ‘The Indian team Fans,’ has managed to get accreditation for the series. And a representative from the club asks questions at the post- match press conference too.

Meanwhile, the Indians stumble at the Basin to hand New Zealand its 100th Test win. The terrific pace pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult are the toast.

The Test concludes in four days and there is some free time on hand. I take Wellington’s cable car that climbs 2060 ft, from Lambton Quay to Kelburn, a suburb in the hills, passing through three tunnels and an equal number of bridges.

Once you reach the top, you are in Wellington’s botanical gardens. Then there is the Cable Car museum. The cable car ride is among Wellington’s symbols.

There is also time to catch up with former New Zealand batsman Bruce Edgar, who opened the innings on greentops in the era of the great fast bowlers of the 1970s and '80s.

Edgar, a chartered accountant by profession, was a brave southpaw who took blows on his body but put a price on his wicket. He has some interesting tales to tell from his era. And his anecdotes are laced with humour. He talks about an incident when he attempts to sweep Australian off-spinner Bruce Yardley and loses half a tooth in the process with the ball ricocheting off the bat and hitting him on the mouth.

The papers are full of Edgar, Yardley and the rest of the Australian team looking at the pitch to find the Kiwi’s broken tooth!

The time to leave Wellington for Christchurch has come. The taxi passes through the Victoria tunnel, an engineering marvel, that is 623 metres long, cutting through the mountain on its way to the airport.

From windy Wellington, on to green and serene Christchurch. Will the fortunes for the Indians change?