Field of dreams

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Ben McKelvie’s three re­main­ing polo ponies look over at what used to be their win­ter pas­ture.

The horses have been per­ma­nently evicted from the pad­dock for McKelvie’s more en­dur­ing pas­sion – cricket.

The Manawatu dairy farmer and for­mer polo player has cre­ated his own ‘‘field of dreams’’ – a full-sized laser-lev­elled cricket ground over a rise at the back of his house.

That’s 13378 square me­tres of man­i­cured lawn with a proper clay bat­ting block in the mid­dle, nes­tled in the rolling dune coun­try north west of Hi­matangi Beach. It’s about 25 min­utes drive from Palmer­ston North and 3km down a coun­try road off the Fox­ton Straights stretch of State High­way One.

‘‘It’s some­thing I’ve al­ways dreamed about, hav­ing a back­yard cricket wicket,’’ McKelvie said.

‘‘I met up with some guys in town – we played a bit of in­door cricket. They’re a great bunch, and well, I got a lit­tle car­ried away.’’

The ‘‘great bunch’’ were mem­bers of Palmer­ston North premier-3 Bloom­field Cricket Club, founded in 1994 by a group of Sri Lankan doc­tors work­ing at Palmer­ston North Hospi­tal. They bor­rowed the Bloom­field name and its lion head crest from a se­nior Sri Lankan side.

A sin­gle-team club, Bloom­field has up to 20 mem­bers, with the idea to use the pitch as a home ground, and see if an­other lo­cal club, Manawatu-Fox­ton, would be also be in­ter­ested in mak­ing use of it.

‘‘[Ben’s] a great bloke,’’ club cap­tain John Mur­rie said, ‘‘and has done an amaz­ing amount of work all on his own ini­tia­tive, and sim­ply be­cause he loves his cricket. [He’s the] kind of guy ev­ery club needs.’’

De­scrib­ing the pitch-build­ing ex­er­cise as a steep learn­ing curve, he has sought ad­vice and ex­per­tise from pro­fes­sional grounds­men in Palmer­ston North. While not re­veal­ing the money in­volved, McKelvie had plenty of help from lo­cal con­trac­tors, who shared his vi­sion and kept costs down.

He has cleared the sur­round­ing dunes of pine and planted a poplar, golden elm and akeake wind­break. He is also hav­ing a score­board built, and later, who knows, a pav­il­ion.

If he knew then what he knows now, McKelvie prob­a­bly would never have started.

‘‘I can’t go back now, though. It’s the wrong sort of grass to feed cows.’’

‘‘It's some­thing I've al­ways dreamed about, hav­ing a back­yard cricket wicket,’’ Ben McKelvie

PHOTO: DAVID UN­WIN/ FAIRFAX NZ

Ben ‘He don’t like cricket - he love it’ McKelvie on his own full-sized back­yard cricket ground.

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