4 Nov 2020

Queenstown to field West Indies cricket team visit

7:58 pm on 4 November 2020

Circulating rumours about a visit from the West Indies cricket team have become a much-welcomed reality for Queenstown.

West Indies' head coach Phil Simmons (C) talks to his player ahead of the warm up before the start of play on the fourth day of the second Test cricket match against England at Old Trafford in Manchester on July 19, 2020.

The West Indies cricket team, in England in July. Photo: AFP

Mayor Jim Boult has confirmed the team will be based in the resort town for the summer of cricket.

They're here to face the Black Caps, but they'll also play two matches against New Zealand A in Queenstown, which the mayor hopes will bring people to the town to watch.

It's not the flurry of international visitors Queentown has been desperately missing, but it's something.

Queenstown last hosted a top level international cricket team back in 2014.

Queenstown Cricket Club president Daniel Gibbons said they had been working hard to bring international teams to the town for some time, and were stumped that they hadn't succeeded earlier.

"You've got these facilities that aren't being utilised on the national stage. If you watch any of the footage where you've got international games televised, you just can't really - I don't think - get a better marketing aspect for New Zealand.

"You've got these mountains and everything around them, and you sort of see that visual impact, so it's certainly been a lost opportunity we believe," Gibbons said.

While the West Indies visit would put cricket in the spotlight, he said fans wouldn't be the only winners.

"This will create a general buzz, especially in a town like this that's been so greatly impacted by tourism not being able to happen so much since Covid lockdown.

"I think it's going to create wider buzz, [not] just the cricket fans, I think it's actually having some internationals coming in will be a massive boost to the area," he said.

Generic stills of Queenstown and surrounding area

Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Boult said a visit from the West Indies represented months of work.

"For a while it looked like it wasn't going to happen. More or less in the last two weeks it's become apparent that it is going to happen. We were still kind of on tenterhooks until we heard the players themselves had arrived in New Zealand."

It was welcome news after the resort town recently missed out on other sporting events.

"This is a piece of good news given our recent loss of the rugby championship teams and then of course, the very recent news regarding the golf, so having a high profile team like the West Indies in our part of the world is just a confidence lift for the district," Boult said.

This was far from the last event the local council would be pitching for - the mayor said the district remained hopeful they'd score a visit from the Pakistan cricket team.

"We're working on a number of high-profile sporting events, and cultural events for that matter as well. A lot of them are a work in progress, and clearly we can't say anything about it until we know that they're actually going to happen. Some are a mere gleam in the eye, others are moderately well cooked."

He hoped to have more good news in the coming months.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chair Craig Douglas said it was promising the town was in a position to host an international sporting match during a pandemic.

"This is our new normal, which is a lot like our old normal, which is pretty fortunate for us in this little corner of the world.

"What we see in the news suggests that this isn't possible elsewhere. But it's just a positive and a reassurance that the future is still looking very bright for Queenstown," he said.

Colored crosswalk and people in street of city after dusk showing the character of famous tourist spot.

Photo: 123rf

It was unclear what the financial boon would be, but Douglas said there were benefits any way you spin it.

"But I think one of the real benefits also is the coverage of the tour back into other parts of the world is another great opportunity to put Queenstown on the international travel map, for when people are able to travel again.

"It's going to show Queenstown as a safe destination, and a highly aspirational destination for people to come to when they get that opportunity."

So far, all West Indies players and support staff have returned a negative Covid-19 test on day three of quarantining in Christchurch, with more tests required on days six and 12.

If all goes to plan, players will be walking onto the cricket pitch later this month.

The first match will be played against the New Zealand A side over three days, from Friday, November 20, with a four day match starting the following Thursday.

The West Indies cricket team has been approached for comment.

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