New Zealand bowler Blair Tickner saw “lives being flipped upside down” after interrupting his preparations for this week’s second Test against England to help his Hawke’s Bay community recover from the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Tickner made his Black Caps debut in the series opener at Mount Maunganui, which was almost entirely unaffected by the extreme weather system that wreaked havoc elsewhere on the North Island and led to a state of national emergency being called.
Tickner’s hometown was one of the worst impacted, with flooding and wind damage causing devastation to homes and businesses, isolating communities and contributing several of the cyclone’s 11 confirmed fatalities.
His own father John saw his home in Hastings wiped out, but encouraged his son to take the field and bring some much-needed good news to his region. He was even in the ground to see his son dismiss Ben Duckett on day one, having made a brief detour to Bay Oval while collecting supplies for the relief effort.
Tickner was given permission to head home after England wrapped up victory on Sunday, throwing himself into the cause, and was emotional as he rejoined team-mates in Wellington.
“My father’s house has been fully destroyed so it was good to get back, obviously it’s hard times for the whole region so we were helping out neighbours and whoever else we could,” he said.
“It’s been tough. It’s really tough at the moment, but the Hawke’s Bay is staying strong. You grow up there as a kid and it’s just crazy to see. It’s a bit hard to talk about, really.
“Cricket doesn’t feel hard when you see stock on the side of the road dead, people crying, grown men crying about their homes. Their whole lives being flipped upside down. Cricket to me is obviously my life as well, but it’s nothing compared to what people are going through at the moment.”
Admitting he found it hard to reconcile the proudest moment of his professional career with the troubles unfolding elsewhere, Tickner explained what stiffened his resolve.
“There wasn’t much power so we couldn’t actually get hold of many people, but I finally got hold of my dad and he just wanted me to represent our family well and represent the Hawke’s Bay,” he said.
“I couldn’t really say no to playing my first Test after and I knew I was going to help out (later), so I just wanted to be a bright light for them at home.
“It was pretty emotional, seeing that cap. It was special for me and my family. You obviously dream about your Test debut forever and expect your family to be there, your friends.
“Dad was taking generators back down to Hawke’s Bay to help the people and he just stopped in for about half-an-hour, luckily saw my first Test wicket and then went on to a seven-hour drive back home to help everyone. Luckily my wife was there too, but it’s just crazy times at the moment.
“After the Test I’ll go back and hopefully help out with anything, in any way. There’s so many damaged little parts of Hawke’s Bay I haven’t even seen yet, but it’s been awesome to see the region pulling together.”
New Zealand’s sponsors ANZ have pledged a million dollars (£510,000) to the disaster relief fund, with the first ODI against Sri Lanka on March 25 nominated as a fundraising match where profits from ticket sales and crowd contributions will all add to the pot.
ANZ chief executive Antonia Watson said: “Tragically, lives have been lost and livelihoods destroyed.
“Yet, what has struck me time and time again has been the response of New Zealanders – their resilience and concern for others ahead of themselves.”