How often do you get the chance to enjoy a glass of fine wine with Sachin Tendulkar on one side and a Prime Minister on the other? Like all things Kiwi, the Indian team’s interaction with John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister at the building simply known as “The Beehive” for its distinctive architecture, was an informal and charming affair.
The two teams lined up in their Sunday best early on Thursday evening for an hour of genuine warmth and camaraderie. The manner in which everyone was put at ease in the parliament building -samosas and jalebis complementing the fine wine and boutique beer on offer — was something you cannot imagine happening in India.
In keeping with the ambience, the speeches were crisp and light. Prime Minister Key opened with an anecdote that caused ripples of laughter around the historic semi-circular room.
“I have a 13-year-old son Max, who is the cricket follower in our household. These tight late games are playing havoc with the schedule in our house because every time I return from a function late in the night, my son is watching cricket. So, these tight finishes have made for some sleepless nights in our household,” said Key.
“Max gave me a list of names from both sides whose autographs he wanted. So MS and Daniel, if I come up and ask for some autographs, it is not for me, it is for my son Max.”
Vettori, who took the humour baton from Key, responded in kind. “On behalf of the Black Caps, I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the invitation tonight,” he began.
“All the players are very excited at the opportunity to be at the Beehive, but more so because we all got new suits today.”
Dhoni, who had a prepared speech, decided to engage in some light banter with Key, saying, “For most of us, it is our first trip to New Zealand. In the last ten days we have found that whatever we heard about New Zealand, it is true. It’s a beautiful country and has wonderful people and tough cricket, of course,” said Dhoni. “As far as Mr Prime Minister is concerned, Daniel and I will talk to our teams and tell them not to take the game till the last over so that we can take a bit of tension away from you.”
Tension? In New Zealand, that barely seems possible.