“You can’t go far wrong if you present your sport in a way that makes the TV viewer wish they were there in person,” says Jon Long, the former head of strategy at the ICC who now runs the consultancy Bayridge Sports. “For Test matches the boutique venues in New Zealand achieve that much more effectively than an empty Eden Park.”
New Zealand have increasingly embraced as much. With smaller grounds, the costs of hosting games are less; indeed, New Zealand came close to breaking even from the Bay Oval Test, whereas they lost far more money hosting England at Eden Park 18 months ago – even though 12,000 more people attended over the five days.
“The players love it – they prefer the intimacy,” says David White, the chief executive of New Zealand Cricket. “The feedback we’re receiving is that the public and fans also prefer the grass banks and the picnic atmosphere of these types of grounds.”
The lessons from New Zealand’s small ground success could be extended. South Africa, Sri Lanka and the UAE, Long suggests, are among the countries where similar grounds could be rolled out for most Test matches.