New Zealand’s Minister of Sports and Recreation wants to showcase his country’s beauty and organisational skills to the world.
The ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup is a little over a month away, and the 16-team event promises to bring together future stars who will compete across four cities and seven venues in New Zealand.
Grant Robertson, New Zealand's Minister of Sports and Recreation, said he was looking forward to his country hosting the tournament.
"I'm hugely excited that we are hosting the ICC U19 World Cup," he said. "It is a tournament that produces future stars. It certainly has for New Zealand over the years, where people like Kane Williamson and Tim Southee started their international careers. We are really excited to see what the world's got to offer and we want to show them New Zealand at the same time."
Robertson extolled the importance of the tournament in grooming players from around the world. "This is the starting point of the amazing careers for a number of these future stars. In New Zealand, we know all about the fact that if you want to grow your talent, you have to provide opportunities to travel, and I think a tournament like this also helps stars emerge from some of the developing and emerging nations."
The 48-match event is the third ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand, which previously hosted the 2002 and 2010 editions. Christchurch is the only city that has multiple venues, with matches slotted at the Hagley Oval, Rangiora Oval, Bert Sutcliffe Oval and Lincoln No. 3.
Matches in Queenstown will be played at the John Davies Oval, while the fixtures in Tauranga and Whangarei will be played at the Bay Oval and the Cobham Oval respectively.
Robertston felt the tournament was another opportunity for the country to showcase itself on the world stage.
"Christchurch is a beautiful city, it's recovering from the earthquake, and the people there love it when they have visitors. And we have a city like Whangarei which is a city in the far north, it will be very warm there," he said.
"Then there is Queenstown, probably the most beautiful place in the whole of the world. I think the cricketers will have a great time and enjoy New Zealand's magnificent scenery.
"I really hope there will be a big crowd of people at all of those venues, just like the 2015 World Cup. Hopefully there'll be drama, fantastic future stars, and this will be an opportunity to just see them on the rise."
Robertson, a self-confessed cricket tragic, added that growing up, he always looked up to Richard Hadlee, the former New Zealand all-rounder. Williamson and Suzie Bates are his favourite cricketers from the current lot.
"As a New Zealander who grew up in the 1980s, it's pretty hard to go past Sir Richard Hadlee," he gushed. "I had a poster of him on my wall, I couldn't bowl like him but he was a hero to all New Zealanders in the 80s.
"If I fast forward to today, I look at a cricketer like Kane Williamson, who epitomizes everything that is great about cricket as a sport. He is a true gentleman as well and a great player. And coming from Dunedin, where I grew up there as a kid, I'm incredibly proud of Suzie Bates, who has been an amazing leader for the White Ferns."
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