New Zealand goes into bat on the beach to mark 500 days until the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
The 49-match tournament - co-hosted with Australia - is set to showcase some of the most thrilling cricket in the world at some of New Zealand’s best sporting venues.
Seven cities spread across the cricket-mad country - Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Napier, Nelson and Wellington - will each host three pool-matches.
Christchurch - in the South Island of New Zealand - is scheduled for the opening match of the tournament, which sees the New Zealand BLACKCAPS take on Sri Lanka on 14 February 2015.
Wellington’s Regional Stadium will showcase a quarter-final and Auckland’s iconic Eden Park will feature a crucial semi-final clash.
The even-spread of the tournament means that spectators can not only experience and enjoy some enthralling cricket - but also some of the best experiences New Zealand has to offer.
New Zealanders love their sport and excitement is already building for the tournament which returns to the country for the first time since 1992.
With just 500 days to go until the highly-anticipated tournament, cricket-fever was definitely in the air at Takapuna Beach on the North Shore of Auckland as 10 pint-sized cricket-mad fans came face-to-face with some of their heroes.
Three players from the New Zealand BLACKCAPS - Martin Guptill, Kyle Mills and Mitchell McClenaghan - were on hand to celebrate the occasion, play beach cricket - a favourite New Zealand summer pastime - and explain just what it means to the BLACKCAPS to be able to play a Cricket World Cup in their homeland.
Veteran all-rounder Kyle Mills is looking forward to taking on some of the world’s best cricketers in his own backyard.
"I think it is huge, as a BLACKCAP, to play in a Cricket World Cup in your own backyard," Mills said. It wouldn’t come along often that you get to play [in a World Cup] at home. I think we are at the right time for us as a group of players to have success in this tournament and to hopefully do it at home would be huge for us."
Rising star, Mitchell McClenaghan, is looking forward to showing New Zealand and the world just what the BLACKCAPS are made of.
"It gives us a chance to show the nation that we are a quality side and that we can take it one step further than the 1992 Cricket World Cup side did, and hopefully bring the trophy back home."
With venues spread across the country, the boys are looking forward to playing in front of passionate spectators in some of New Zealand’s most seminal cricket venues.
Along with playing international cricket around the world, Guptill, Mills and McClenaghan play their club cricket in the United Kingdom, so they are understandably looking forward to playing in front of their home crowd.
"My favourite place to play cricket in New Zealand is probably Eden Park," prolific BLACKCAPS batsman Guptill said of Auckland’s premier sporting venue which is destined to host a semi-final.
"It’s my home ground and I love playing in front of my friends and family… there's a great atmosphere created at the ground."
Eye-catching New Zealand
But it is not just the level of cricket talent that is sure to catch the eye, when the players are not taking to the field there are plenty of opportunities to keep New Zealand visitors entertained.
The Coromandel Peninsula - on the western edge of the Hauraki Gulf - is a narrow stretch of coastland, pohutukawa-lined coves, white sand beaches and lush rainforested hills and it’s not hard to see why this is a favourite New Zealand holiday destination for Mitchell McClenaghan.
"I love getting down there just because it’s always sunny," McClenaghan said. "It’s real chilled and you get to spend family time and just really enjoy the New Zealand summer."
The picturesque alpine paradise of Queenstown, in the South Island of New Zealand, is also a cherished New Zealand holiday destination of choice for the sportsmen.
"My favourite holiday destination in New Zealand would be Queenstown," Guptill said.
"It’s such a lovely place to visit all year round. There is always something to do there and the scenery is amazing."
Along with cricket fans, New Zealand's tourism sector will be right behind the tournament and is looking forward to showcasing the unique beauty and diverse landscapes New Zealand has to offer.
"The Cricket World Cup will be a fantastic opportunity for New Zealand to show itself off not just as a nation that’s in love with the sport of cricket but as a destination that has huge appeal for visitors who want to experience incredible landscapes, the unique Maori culture, and our welcoming Kiwi lifestyle," Catherine Bates, Tourism New Zealand’s General Manager of Brand & International PR said.
ICC Cricket World Cup 2015
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 is contested by the 10 Full Members of the International Cricket Council (ICC), together with four Associate and Affiliate Members that qualify through the ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying programme.
New Zealand will play in Pool A alongside co-hosts Australia, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and two qualifiers who are yet to be decided.
Pool B consists of South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and one further qualifier.
Full ticketing details will be announced in November, but fans can already secure access to pre-sales for all ICC Cricket World Cup matches, including the semi-finals and final, by registering at Cricket World Cup.