Lolling on the embankments, as you look past the white picket fence and over to the cricket at the Basin Reserve, everything appeared charmingly old fashioned. Charming enough to stir the amateur photographer within. You wanted to capture this fleeting moment and hold onto it.
At the Basin, however, there are other ways too of preserving that moment, as Wellingtonians will tell you. You can have a piece of your own ‘I-was-here’ history inscribed on a copper plaque and have it put on the fence for everyone to see.
“For eternity. Or for as long as this ground is here — it has been here for the last 150 years,” informed Peter Clinton, CEO, Wellington Cricket.
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It’s a unique initiative for a cricket ground. It reminds you of the love padlocks commonly seen at bridges across Europe. At the Basin, it is considered a way of professing your love for the ground. “This is more than just a cricket ground. It’s part of Wellington’s heritage. And people are deeply attached with this place,” Clinton said. This tradition was started some eight years ago. “It was Don Neely’s idea,” he said, referring to the former president of New Zealand Cricket who is also a Wellingtonian.
“In order to cover some of the maintenance cost of the ground, we were looking to raise funds. This is how this idea came up. So to have a plaque of your own here, you have to fill a form and pay NZ $ 110. In two weeks’ time, you have your name inscribed on the fence,” he added.
Clinton, however, insisted that it’s not a money making exercise. “This is actually a way of involving people with something they love.” So far 356 people have got involved with this. The fence has a capacity for 3000 such plaques.
Mostly, the plaques have a matter-of-fact inscription: Like just a name and year. Some have been used to commemorate a loved one. One such plaque, remembering Errol Crutch (1942-2011) read: “He loved cricket, most of all, at this place.”
It’s not only the Wellintonians who feel the need to put their names out there. A few travelling fans, mostly the English, have also reserved a place for themselves. Such plaques add some flair to the tradition. One Frank Coupland, in 2009, chose this for the inscription: “Yorkshire born, Yorkshire bred. Soft in the heart, weak in the head.”
“We have also started felicitating notable Wellington players by putting up their plaques. We did it recently for former New Zealand internationals Grant Elliot and Iain O’Brien,” Clinton says.
There were a few Indian names as well. One, in particular, attracted attention. “Vijay Dahya, Sept. 2008,” it read.
Former India wicketkeeper, you thought. Only, in this case, the ‘I’ was not there.