This afternoon, as I was thinking about the 2nd test between New Zealand and India that starts tonight it suddenly struck me: I talk a lot about New Zealand on this blog.
I am not sure if I talk about them more than England, or India, or Australia, or any other major test playing nation, but I do talk about them more than other of the “fringe” test playing nations: the West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka Bangladesh, Zimbabwe…etc. And I really do not understand why this is. I am not particularly enamored with any of their former or current cricketers, and actually I think that their former captain, Daniel Vettori, looks like a complete doofus in his glasses (note: I wear glasses). I have also never visited the country, and honestly know very little about it other than Lord of the Rings, rugby, Flight of the Choncords, and sheep. Oh, my sister has visited there once, as has my friend Arzu, and both have said it is just wonderful. And now that I think about it, the few interactions I have had on Twitter with New Zealanders have been beyond pleasant.
And so it is odd that I write about their cricket so much, and sad that I know so little about their cricketing past, and so little about their history overall.
Therefore, I present to you, dear reader: a brief history of New Zealand, using cricket as a backdrop.
(Two quick fun facts first. Actually, not really “fun” as much as important and awesome):
1. In 1984, at the height of the Cold War, New Zealand banned nuclear weapons. Sea, land, and air space became what are known as “nuclear free zones.” This is the opposite of, say, Pakistan, which takes such odd and immense pride in its nuclear weapons program, and I think a fantastic vanguard for western civilization. More info here.
2. In 1893, they became the first nation to grant women the right to vote. 25 years before the United States passed the 19th amendment.
Now on to the history:
New Zealand was one of the last pieces of land settled by humans, due to its remoteness – initially settlement did not begin until 1280 CE. In 1642 when it was “discovered” by the Dutch, the Maori aboriginal culture was the dominant culture of the land.
Europeans began to immigrate and dominate the landscape over the next 200 years, culminating in a treaty between the British in the Maori in 1837 and the imposition of British Law. It was also about this time that Charles Darwin reported seeing a game of cricket being played by freed Maori slaves.
The first recorded game took place in 1842 in Wellington.
In 1852, New Zealand created its first representational government separate, though still subservient to, British Authority. This is followed by a long period of Maori resistance; resistance that would continue for many, many decades.
In 1907, Britain granted New Zealand Dominion status, 20 years later the national cricket team toured England, and three years later they were granted test status, playing, and losing, their first test to England in January 1930 at Christchurch.
In 1947, a year which saw their cricketers play England again at Christchurch, securing a draw this time, New Zealand parliament passed the Statute of Westminster Act, thereby giving their parliament full control of the country, and the ability to amend their constitution, but not releasing them completely from British control. That would not happen until 1986, when the Constitution Act ended the British right to pass laws for New Zealand. 1986 was also a banner year for the Kiwi cricketers: playing six tests (three against Australia in New Zealand and three against England in England) where they won two and drew four, losing none.
Throughout the 20th century, being a westernized nation, New Zealand experienced many of the same ebbs and flows as the rest of the western world: the influenza outbreak, World War One, the Great Depression, World War Two, as well their own version of a civil rights movement. (I want to read much, much more about the Maori people, and I apologize profusely for not including them more in this brief history than I did). Along the way, their cricket team played in 354 test matches, winning 71 and losing 148. They also had their heroes in Bert Sutcliffe, Jack Cowie, Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Chris Cairns, and the aforementioned Daniel Vettori.
They also have made their share of noise in one-day tournaments: making the semi-finals of the World Cup SIX times, and losing every time. In 2000, they won the Champions Trophy, and in 2007 they made it to the semi-finals of the inaugural World T20 Championship – which they lost.
Finally, one cannot discuss New Zealand cricket without bringing up the underarm incident. That video has over 6.7 million views on YouTube. Amazing.
The last words I will leave to New Zealand’s own Neil Finn and his band Crowded House…this is easily one of my favorites songs from the 80s:
(I would link to the proper video but it makes you watch a Justin Bieber ad):