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Eden Park and the original 'Invincibles'

Cricket is a mere guest at the Eden Park. It is the spiritual home of New Zealand's national sport, rugby. It was here that the All Blacks regained the title in the 2011 World Cup.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2014 15:15 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
New-Zealand-All-Blacks-celbrate-after-the-2011-Rugby-World-Cup-final-match-at-the-Eden-Park-Stadium-in-Auckland-AFP-Photo
New-Zealand-All-Blacks-celbrate-after-the-2011-Rugby-World-Cup-final-match-at-the-Eden-Park-Stadium-in-Auckland-AFP-Photo

The drop-in pitch and the stadium shape is evidence enough that cricket is a mere guest at the Eden Park. It is the spiritual home of New Zealand's national sport, rugby. It was here that the All Blacks regained the title in the 2011 World Cup.

But all the success for rugby does not mean everything falls into the lap. Asked whether Eden Park preserved any of New Zealand's great rugby history, a stadium official pointed to the Hall of Fame behind the north stand. She, however, added that it is closed for renovation and is awaiting funds. Some contrast to the wealth of Indian cricket it would seem.

However, a request to a New Zealand cricket official bore fruit. The vast dark hall came alive as the lights were switched on. Cricket does get its share of honour in the two halls, starting with a giant set of stumps, and models of action on and off the pitch as well as photographs. But it's pretty much an ode to the history of rugby, whose origin dates back to 1823.

There are several autographed jerseys of famous teams, flags and jerseys, especially those of the All Blacks. But the pride of place is reserved for the 'Invincibles'. No, not cricket's greatest team – the 1948 Australia side under Don Bradman that won everything on the Ashes tour of England. This is New Zealand own, and it belongs to its rugby.

New Zealand's 1924 'Invincibles' were dubbed thus after becoming the only team to win every game on a tour of United Kingdom and France. Under Cliff Porter, it became only the second fully representative New Zealand team to tour the UK after the 1905 'Originals' lost just one disputed game, against Wales.

The 1924 'Invincibles' All Blacks rugby team. (Getty Images)

One interesting story explains why Scotland refused to play the 'Invincibles' on that trip. On the previous tour, NZ's demand for a guarantee sum was refused by the Scots, who wanted them to take a percentage of the gate collection.

A sell-out crowd came and the visitors got a princely sum of £1,600, eight times more what they would have. And the hosts were not amused.

Now, that anecdote can find the pride of place in a hall of sporting financial disputes!