Wednesday, February 23, 2011

World Cup cricketers to honor NZ earthquake victims

World Cup cricketers to honor NZ earthquake victims

(CNN) -- Cricket officials plan to commemorate the victims of the New Zealand earthquake when the country's national team plays neighboring Australia at the World Cup in India on Friday.

Emergency workers are searching for survivors after at least 65 people were killed in a 6.3-magnitude quake in the southern hemisphere nation's second-biggest city Christchurch on Tuesday.

"At times like this, sport can only offer its support and its deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones during such a tragedy," International Cricket Council chief executive Haroon Lorgat said in a statement.

"It's a helpless feeling but I will be discussing with the organizers of the Cricket World Cup how we can most appropriately remember those who lost their lives or have been injured and affected when the Black Caps play their next match against Australia in Nagpur on Friday."

New Zealand Cricket's headquarters is based in Christchurch, which is reeling from its second serious earthquake in six months. The first in September was stronger but caused no fatalities.

It is the South Island's third tragedy in that period, following the mine explosion that killed 29 people in November.

"The news we have is that the NZC offices have been severely damaged but thankfully everyone who works for NZC seems to have escaped without injury," Lorgat said.

The New Zealand players opened their World Cup campaign on Sunday with a comfortable win over Kenya, but are now preparing for a much more difficult task against four-time champions Australia.

"The greatest thing I think we can do for everyone is win our game against Australia. That'll bring a little bit of light relief to a lot of people going through a tough time," captain Daniel Vettori told the NZC website on Tuesday.

"It's been a tough morning. Five or six guys from the team and the management are based in Christchurch. It's been a rough time for them finding out that their families are safe.

"For everyone within the team, they have family or friends in Christchurch so they're feeling it too. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the Canterbury community."

Some of the Kiwi players wrote about the situation on social networking website Twitter.

"Everyone's families are fine. But quite a numb and flat feeling in the squad. Training was tough yet surprisingly the quality very high," said Scott Styris.

Netherlands captain Peter Borren, who was in action against England in Nagpur on Tuesday, was born in Christchurch and actually played for New Zealand at youth level before switching international allegiances in 2006.

"I managed to get hold of my immediate family, who were all okay, so that was a relief," he said at a press conference after the match. "Obviously it's a tragedy and it's been a tough day back in Christchurch. Hopefully everyone can look after themselves and move on."

Borren scored 35 not out as team lost by six wickets after setting England a victory target of 293 in 50 overs, with Ryan ten Doeschate top-scoring on 119 for the Dutch. England passed that with more than an over to spare, as captain Andrew Strauss led the way with 88 and Jonathan Trott scored 62.

The venue for the tournament's April 2 final, Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, has been cleared by fire safety officials following earlier concerns, the Press Trust of India reported Tuesday.

Christchurch, meanwhile, is scheduled to host seven matches at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in September and October, including two quarterfinals.

The International Rugby Union said it was too early to evaluate whether the city would be able to fulfill its commitments.

"The thoughts and deepest sympathies of the global rugby family are with the people of Christchurch, their families and all New Zealanders at this very difficult time," it said in a statement.

"We feel it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage on the status of Rugby World Cup 2011 infrastructure or operations. The focus at this point must be on the emergency response."