I am an unabashed cricket lover and when I found out that the 2015 World Cup would be held Down Under – I knew I was going to be there, no matter what.
So, with a few friends and tickets in hand; we set out on a journey to watch the Indian team defend the title that they had won in 2011.
We make plans and then there are some PLANS – which we can’t afford not to be a part of. This certainly was one of those. And so, there it was. We landed in Melbourne on 18th March, on the eve of the quarterfinals, with India set to take on neighbours and giant-killers Bangladesh.
MCG, or rather Melbourne Cricket Ground – is something to be seen, felt and experienced to be believed. Located by the Yarra Park, the “G” as it referred to by the locals, is the largest stadium not just in Australia, but in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere. Its magnanimity is something that can’t be described in words. But, once the Indian and the Bangladeshi fans trooped in, the decibel levels literally went through the roof. Sitting in the lowest tier, right next to boundary ropes, we were literally in the best seats in the house. We managed to meet a host of former cricketing stalwarts including Rahul Dravid, Dean Jones among others.
It was an unbelievable experience, and an Indian win perfectly capped a historic day for me. Meeting the legendary Ravi Shastri, at a restaurant overlooking the beautiful Yarra River was yet another highlight. And from there, we flew over to Australia’s trans-Tasman neighbour – New Zealand.
The Magical Kiwi land – Volcanoes, green meadows, stunning landscape, eclectic weather and much more!
Bright sunshine greeted us in Wellington. Serene, calm and draped around bushy hillsides, replete with spectacular rugged shores along the south coast, Wellington or ‘Welly’, is New Zealand’s cultural capital. The city was all decked up and it felt as if the World Cup had re-introduced the passion for cricket back in New Zealand. Streets were full of cheering locals and everyone was in a lively mood on the eve of the quarterfinal match between West Indies and the team of the tournament so far – The Black Caps; playing lively, fierce and attractive cricket.
The highlight for me was the 20 minutes’ walk to Westpac Stadium. The walk along the sea on a balmy, sunny morning with light breeze, was just such a sensational experience that we ended up reaching late to the stadium. Three things stood out for me here: No matter where you are, there is Indian presence; Second: Kiwi opener Martin Guptill may not have been a stylish, destructive component like his captain Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum, but he was class apart as he ripped through the hapless Windies bowling. Third and most important, the energy, vibrancy and the delighted Kiwi supporters were something to be a part of. Especially one gentleman Charlie Meyer, whose chant “Common Boulty (Trent Boult), Take It In” literally spread like wildfire amongst the choc-a-bloc Kiwi supporters and in no time, everyone became a part of the same.
Wellington to Auckland: A journey of 800 kilometres over 2 days amidst scenic Kiwi landscape
The highlight of this trip, without a doubt! Driving from Wellington to Auckland, a distance of over 800 miles, felt merely a drive of few hundred meters. It felt as if New Zealand was bestowing all its natural beauties upon us. From snow-capped volcanoes in the distance, to the postcard-perfect setting on the shores of the lake Taupo, it was simply gorgeous. From misty air to showers, with sunshine and green meadows all along the way; the drive was a delight beyond words.
The words of legendary Brazilian Formula One driver, Ayrton Senna kept ringing in my mind,
“And suddenly, I realized I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by instinct, only I was in a different dimension”.
We decided to stay over and bask in the beauty of the Lake Taupo. We stayed in an inn right next to the lake and spent the evening discovering the quaint little town. The locals were warm, gentle and it seemed to them that the World Cup was a dream that was about to be realised.
Next morning, we visited the Huka Falls. The waterfall draining into the Lake Taupo is a sight to behold. The Falls dip from approximately 100 metres, rumbling down into a narrow canyon 15 metres wide, with water flowing at astounding speeds of up to 220,000 litres per second. A major tourist spot, this waterfall is a must-see while in the region.
The drive continued merrily towards Auckland on the second day. Just when we thought we couldn’t see anything that could surpass the beauty of the day before, we reached Rotorua. This sulphur-rich, dynamic thermal area of New Zealand, home to gushing geysers, steaming hot springs and waterfalls, makes Rotorua a tourists’ delight. The most spectacular springs of Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters) and the sight of a 30m geothermal geyser are sights that you don’t get to see every day!
The Match that will be etched in memories forever!
The D-day for all of New Zealand was upon us. The all-conquering Kiwis took on the mighty South Africans, led by the charismatic A B De Villiers in the first semi-final at the Eden Park. More than 40,000 locals trooped in and became the boisterous 12th man for the team that had given them new hopes.
And what a match it turned out to be!
Music, chants, roaring crowd, sensational cricket and terrific sportsmanship made the match an unforgettable experience for me. Even though I was a neutral, the atmosphere in the stadium gave me goosebumps. I was lucky to capture a video of the six hit on the penultimate ball of the last over by Grant Elliott to take the Kiwis into their 1st ever Cricket World Cup final. It was crazy in the stands and crazier all throughout the country. Dancing, music, beers, hugs, big smiles greeted us everywhere! The cup was now literally one step away for the cheering Kiwis!
From the mesmerising beauty of New Zealand, (I would recommend driving across the country to everyone!) we flew over to the Sydney, where Aussies dealt us a massive heartbreak and knocked India out of the World Cup. The atmosphere again, was splendid, with a majority of the crowd howling for India, but the ruthlessness of the Aussies was simply too much to bear.
I couldn’t muster up the strength to travel to Melbourne for the Big Final between the two Tasman neighbours. The journey that began in Melbourne, proceeded to Wellington across the border, and reached epic scales during the drive to catch the match in Auckland, came to a wretched end in Sydney. The Aussies may have won the World Cup with their ruthless efficiency but the country, New Zealand won my heart with its sporting spirit and above all, its eclectic, boundless natural beauty.
The things that I took away from this sojourn: Everywhere people are genuinely nice; cricket is more than a game and New Zealand’s beauty is a delight to the sore eyes. Moreover, memories of watching the World Cup with my friends in a country where cricket thrives like no place else will stay etched in my memories forever.
And, these words never felt truer!