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