Christchurch is a city in a recovery. In 2011, the entire landscape of the city was devastated with an earthquake which killed 185 people. The earthquake destroyed the Jade stadium, which was witness to several memorable moments for New Zealand cricket and in 2017, it was demolished. For many cricket fans, the destruction of the Jade stadium was a sad moment as a chapter of New Zealand cricket was destroyed. It took time for the people of Canterbury to recover and they found solace when Hagley Oval was inaugurated as the new cricketing centre. However, the mosque shootings, which has resulted in the death of close to 50 people in Christchurch has once again given more pain to the city and the final international match in New Zealand’s season, the Test match against Bangladesh was cancelled after a joint decision by the New Zealand and Bangladesh Cricket Boards.
The Christchurch mosque shootings, which has resulted in many fatalities, will scar the city even more than the earthquake. Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, summed up the magnitude of the incident. “What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand.” Indeed, if one looked at global instances of terrorism, New Zealand was like an island of tranquility amidst the chaos that had enveloped the world. However, that has been busted by the shootings.
The Hagley Oval was the ultimate symbol of New Zealand’s recovery since the 2011 earthquake. When it was decided that Hagley Oval, located in Hagley Park would be redeveloped as a sporting venue in the wake of Jade stadium’s demolition, there was resistance. The resistance came from the Environment Court initially and the Christchurch City Council.
When the application was given in 2012, for nearly a year, the situation was in a limbo. However, all that changed in 2013 when the Environmental council agreed to redevelop Hagley Oval but with strict conditions. One of the conditions was, “No more than 13 match days allocated to major fixtures within any cricket season.” There were also major restrictions on the number of temporary stands and facilities that would be present at the Hagley Oval.
Despite all the odds, Hagley Oval pressed on. In 2013, despite facing two major incidents of flooding, Hagley Oval was Test cricket’s newest venue in 2014 and since then, it was witness to plenty of magnificent milestones. The marquee Boxing Day Test was played against Sri Lanka, the opening ceremony and the first match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 between New Zealand and Sri Lanka was played. Brendon McCullum hit the fastest century in Tests at this venue in 2016 in what his ultimate farewell against Australia while New Zealand broke a 35-year jinx at home against England with a draw at the same venue in 2018.
With every passing year, Christchurch slowly recovered from all the physical scars due to the earthquake and the exploits of the cricketers at the Hagley Oval made it possible. The Test match against Bangladesh was the last international match of New Zealand’s summer and they looked good to end it in style, having swept the ODIs 3-0 and winning the first two Tests. Tim Southee was going to captain New Zealand for the first time while Will Young was set to make his debut.
However, the chilling images of the Bangladesh cricket team running through Hagley Park following the shooting as they were preparing to offer prayers at Al Noor mosque which was a kilometer away will scar not just the cricketers, but the city again. Christchurch was recovering from the scars of the earthquake, now they have been dragged back into the abyss in what can be described as the ‘darkest period’ in New Zealand’s history.