New Zealand fast bowler Blair Tickner admitted he found it hard to keep his mind off the devastation caused by Cyclone Gabrielle when he made his Test debut at the Bay Oval last week. The 29-year-old only managed figures of 4 for 127 in a blowout defeat to England but what made his performance particularly impressive was that he took the field while his home town of Hawke’s Bay was ravaged by the storm.
Tickner fought back tears on Wednesday (February 22) while revealing the details of the damage and the personal toll the cyclone had taken on him and his family. In fact, he and Central Districts teammate Will Young were granted leave to go help out with the rescue operation.
“My father’s house has been fully destroyed. It was good to get back, help them out,” Tickner said. “It’s just hard times for the whole region, so helping out neighbours and whoever we could. It’s been tough, it’s really tough at the moment, but Hawke’s Bay is staying strong. Obviously, I grew up there as a kid… it’s just crazy, to be honest. It’s a bit hard to talk about, really.”
Tickner admitted that the Cyclone and its aftereffects had put a dampener on his Test debut with his family preoccupied with rescue and relief operations. “You dream about your test debut forever and expect your family to be there… my dad was good enough to come through, taking generators down to Hawke’s Bay to help people. He just stopped in for about half an hour, luckily saw my first test wicket and then went on to a seven-hour drive home to help everyone. Luckily, my wife was there, but it’s crazy times at the moment,” he said.
New Zealand Cricket has stepped up to help with the relief efforts. In what Tickner termed an “awesome gesture”, a forthcoming ODI against Sri Lanka on March 25 at Eden Park turned into a special fundraising match. “Hopefully we can have a sellout and all that money goes to them [people affected by the cyclone], ” Tickner said.
“It’s round the whole of New Zealand – Gisborne, Wairoa, Hawke’s Bay, up north of Auckland and Whangarei. So it’s been hard for everyone throughout the country. I just want everyone to go out and support. You can help donate food and clothing all around New Zealand at the moment, so everyone can help.”
Before that though, Tickner has had to turn his focus to the Basin Reserve in Wellington, where New Zealand run the risk of losing a home series to England. The big defeat in Mount Maunganui extended New Zealand’s barren run in the format to seven Tests and England under the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum regime have been rampant in the format. Tickner looks forward to overturning those odds at a venue where the Black Caps have won each of their last three Tests.
“We weren’t good enough in the first game, but we are ready to go again here at the Basin. We think we’ve got the right tools to do the job, and we just have to do it better this time,” he said. “I definitely want to get my first win in test match cricket and really want to do it for the people of Hawke’s Bay.”