Hawke’s Bay Cricket CEO Craig Findlay knows all about battling the elements at the height of the cricket season.
“Lets hope we don’t hail stones coming down,” says Findlay before the annual three-day Kilbirnie Sports HBCA Twenty20 Tournament starts in the province from 3.30pm tomorrow.
He casts his mind to playing in 1997 in Scotland, where he was mentoring youngsters at the Watsonian CC when it started snowing.
“I ran for cover and all the players stayed out so they said to me, ‘What are you doing you soft Kiwi?’,” says Findlay with a laugh.
The Bay is in the grips of a yo-yo spring, tripping on wintery days classically evident after a hailstorm wreaked havoc in the province on Tuesday.
“I had told the [Scottish] kids we don’t play in this sort of weather in New Zealand,” says Findlay, a former Central Districts Stags cricketer, of the home club session in Edinburgh.
Ruahine Motors Central Hawke’s Bay CC shared the spoils with Onslow CC (Wellington) in 2017 after rain had dictated terms on the final day.
The forecast tomorrow is a crisp and sunny 17C but late rain is forecast on Saturday, albeit clearing the following morning to fine day.
“It’s just a great way to start the season for everyone — clubs from out of town get to play on grass wickets which they don’t until late October at home and no pressure to perform,” he says.
Findlay says while some clubs take it seriously with the sponsors’ sport vouchers worth $1000 for the winners and $500 for the runners-up up for grabs, some teams merely want to cement a sense of collective culture.
“Looking at the past winners, it hasn’t reflected on whether a team will necessarily do well for their club season.”
Perhaps the biggest damper this weekend is the unavailability of contracted CD Stags players.
“The Stags have been in Napier last week and then they have warm-up games against Auckland next week which all adds, I suppose, to their own three weeks of preparation and, obviously, our tournament isn’t something they want to be a part of anymore,” he says.
In previous tourneys, Black Caps — such as Doug Bracewell, Ajaz Patel — as well as seasoned Stags in the mould of Kieran Noema-Barnett, Ben Wheeler, Dane Cleaver and Bevan Small have used them as entree to the main course in the season.
“When we first set it up it was a big part for them and a great competition for the premier club cricketers,” he says.
Findlay says the tourney will become a stamping grounds for predominantly the young and restless this year.
At a cursory glance of the squads, he has noticed defending tourney champions Ruahine Motors Central Hawke’s Bay have inherited the services of former Heretaunga Building Society Cornwall CC and Bay representative skipper Jacob Smith whose father/commentator Ian Smith is a patron of the Hastings club.
“Taradale look like they’re a little stronger this year, which is good because they struggled a bit last [summer],” he says of the You Travel-sponsored Maroons who last Sunday claimed the inaugural Lake Taupo CC T20 tourney title.
Innovative Electrical Napier Technical Old Boys, the back-to-back reigning New Zealand premier men’s club champions, are losing the experienced heads of Morten Freer, Stevie Smidt and Liam Rukuwai.
Findlay predicts Taradale, CHB, Karori and North Shore will progress from their respective pools.
“It’s a long season so you don’t want to really be peaking at the end of this weekend with another 24 weeks to go,” he says.
Sher-e-Punjab CC, from Hastings, are the wild cards after responding to an SOS from Findlay when team from outside the province withdrew in the umpteenth hour.
“I had three teams pull out so I contacted Lucky Singh from the club here if they wanted to play [and they said yes] because they love their cricket and it’s a club that’s getting stronger in Hawke’s Bay,” he says of the Bay senior division campaigners who haven’t won their grade but have been among the top rungs although the high school first XIs tend to beat them.
“They’ve still got work to do but, over time, I think they’ll grow into a reasonably strong club whose players originally played for Celtics.”
Sher-e-Punjab play Taradale at Cornwall Park first up while on the adjacent strip the hosts face the Texans. In the other opening derby, The Station Napier Old Boys’ Marist will welcome Bayleys Real Estate Havelock North CC at Nelson Park No 4 while CHB roll out the strip for Johnsonville CC (Wellington) at Forest Gate Domain in Ongaonga.
Findlay is delighted to have enticed 16 umpires to the crease at the tourney where they’ll relish the opportunity to get their eye in early in the summer.
“I think we have eight umpires coming from out of town so it also gives them an opportunity on fantastic grass wickets here.”
Taradale, Sher-e-punjab (Hastings), East Coast Bays, Hutt Districts.
Horowhenua-Kapiti Bears, Central Hawke’s Bay, Johnsonville, Parnell.
Napier Technical Old Boys, Karori, Cornwall (Hastings), Ellerslie.
NOBM, Havelock North, North Shore, Onslow.