New Zealand to celebrate WTC victory with week-long, nationwide tour
New Zealand's World Test Championship-winning squad is set for a week-long, nationwide tour with the mace later this month. The tour will kick off in Whangarei on July 26 and will end in Invercargill (Stadium Southland) on August 1, with Auckland (Eden Park), Tauranga (Hamilton), New Plymouth/Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin (Forsyth Barr Stadium) being the other stops on the trip.
Captain Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, the Player of the Match in the historic WTC final, Devon Conway and Colin de Grandhomme, however, will not be part of the revelry at home, as they are all currently in the UK, playing county cricket or preparing for the Hundred. The rest of the players and the support staff will likely be part of the tour after spending time with their families following MIQ (Managed Isolation Quarantine) in Auckland.
Spinners Will Somerville and Todd Astle, and opening batter Jeet Raval, will also take part in the tour. The trio was not part of the squad for the UK tour, with the WTC final thrown in, but will be recognised for their roles in helping New Zealand qualify for the final.
"It's quickly become apparent that Kiwis want an opportunity to be part of, and to share in this historic achievement," NZC chief executive David White said in a statement. "We've been inundated with requests to do something so that New Zealanders can join in with the team and share the moment.
"At first, we thought the time-out in managed isolation and the length of time since the win would dampen enthusiasm for a public celebration, but we have been persuaded to think again."
Senior seamer Tim Southee has been lined up to launch the tour in his hometown of Whangarei. He was particularly excited about sharing New Zealand's WTC success with the public.
"I guess it's a great way to give back to the fans that've supported us - not only the last couple of years through the Test Championship but for a long time," Southee said. "For some of these smaller places that don't get a lot of international cricket or see a lot of cricketers, it's a great chance to go back to those smaller towns… I know growing up in a small town, anytime there's something special like that, it's always a great occasion. Hopefully, we can give back and hopefully give kids a bit of future hope of future cricketers."
Southee was also looking forward to celebrating the occasion with Somerville, Astle and Raval who were among 22 players that represented New Zealand in the inaugural World Championship cycle.
"With the Test Championship spanning over a two-year period, we used a number of players. I think 20-odd players in total and although there was [only] 15 in the final, it was nice for those guys that contributed," Southee said. "I look back to the likes of Somers that played a massive role in the series in Sri Lanka that got us underway in the Test Championship, so it's great to have those guys that contributed along the way in a two-year cycle to get us through to the final. So, it's nice for them to be able to bask in the rewards as well."
'Huge of sense of pride among the whole community here' - Somerville
As for Somerville, he will be part of the Auckland leg of the mace tour. The offspinner had played his part in New Zealand's overseas Test victories in Abu Dhabi and Colombo.
"It was just a huge sense of pride, having been involved in a small way," Somerville said. "[I] suppose I played three of the games before the final. Huge sense of pride amongst the whole community here - walking up to school and dropping the kids off. Everyone was very excited, talking about it, and there was a lot of buzz around, going into day six and yeah there was not a lot of sleep had by the dads the next day and it was very exciting. It was a nice result to have after a few years of really good cricket by the Black Caps.
"It [the mace] looks like quite a big thing to hold. But it'd be fun waving it like a wand I suppose and get some photos with it…To have won the first World Test Championship final is something that everyone in New Zealand is going to remember forever. To be part of that history is pretty wonderful really."
The 36-year old has not played for New Zealand since the Sydney Test last year, but could come back into the selection frame as the side prepares for two Tests in India later this year, which will be part of the second WTC cycle.
"I've always felt a part of this squad and the wider squad, in contact with Steady [coach Gary Stead] and Gav [selector Gavin Larsen] about where I sit," Somerville said. "Unfortunately last year we were supposed to go to Bangladesh in August, but by the time June came out, we sort of knew that wasn't going to happen. That was a two-Test series that I'd have liked to be a part of; it hasn' t happened.
"Moving forward, there's a tour of India in November - whether that's in India or not who knows at this point? I'm sure they'll be keen for it to be there based on the wickets that we present for them. So, hopefully they will want to get us back with some spin-friendly wickets and it'll be nice if we can meet that challenge head-on. If that occurs, I'd love to be a part of that. Certainly have my eyes set on the Indian tour and hoping that I can have that opportunity into the year."