The Basin Reserve is more than a cricket stadium. Built over 146 year ago, it is the spiritual home of New Zealand Cricket. But it’s even more than that: it’s a roundabout. As has been described by a romantic: “Like a large island in the middle of a swift moving torrent (of traffic).” For more disillusioned people, it’s an obstacle. A scene of traffic jams during peak hours. “Jams”, of course, relatively speaking.
Naturally, there has been a proposal to build a flyover above the embankments to the left of the pavilion. And quite naturally, there has been opposition.
“They are going to destroy this place. They want to build a motorway here,” says one elderly gentleman who goes by the name of Eric Chaplin. Mr Chaplin and I are standing staring at the closed doors of New Zealand Cricket’s museum.
“It’s 10:47 am. It should have been open 17 minutes ago,” I say. He brings my attention to an earthquake-prone-building warning pasted on it. “Looks like they have closed it,” he says.
He grows disgusted. “This building has stood the test of time. It has been here for more years than you and I have been in this world for, put together,” Mr Chaplin says with the authority of a man who has frequented this place in the past.
I am disappointed, but then I think maybe I can ask Mr Chaplin to tell me more about the museum.
“Oh, I have never been here before, I came here for the first time in my 60 years,” he replies.
And you found it closed, I ask. “And I find it closed,” he repeats, with a hint of irony. “There you go, you have your story. Have a good day,” he says as he takes hurried steps towards the stadium’s exit.
To me, however, it feels like a Saki short story. Only it isn’t…quite yet. Five minutes after the first gentleman departs, another one comes, with a white handlebar mustache. It’s closed, I tell him.
“I know,” he says as he fishes out the key and begins to unlock. “I am the curator. We open only three days a week. And Thursday is not one of them. But if you want, you can look around.”
But what about that earthquake-prone-building notice? “Oh it says, it will be closed if can’t prove it’s safe by 2022.”
The doors open, and I am let into New Zealand’s cricket’s wonderful past. I see a lake which turns into a swamp, which in turn is transformed into the beautiful Basin Reserve. I bear witness to cricket taking roots at edge of the world. I learn how New Zealand and Australia’s soldiers played cricket during the first World War in Turkey to cover an operation. I see Bert Sutcliffe bleeding through the bandage on his head and defying the South African. I hear anecdotes about Delhi belly and tiger skin. The lowest Test score and the first win. Hadlee’s 15 and Crowe’s 299. And I feel sorry for Chaplin.