It is generally forgotten that cricket rather than rugby union was the 'national game' in New Zealand until the early years of the twentieth century. This book shows why and how cricket developed in New Zealand and how its character changed across time. Greg Ryan examines the emergence and growth of cricket in relation to diverse patterns of European settlement in New Zealand - such as the systematic colonization schemes of Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the gold discoveries of the 1860s. He then considers issues such as cricket and social class in the emerging cities; cricket and the elite school system; the function of the game in shaping relations between the New Zealand provinces; cricket encounters with the Australian colonies in the context of an 'Australasian' world.
A central theme is cricketing relations with England at a time when New Zealand society was becoming acutely conscious of both its own identity and its place within the British Empire. This imperial relationship reveals structures, ideals and objectives unique to New Zealand. Articulate, engaging and entertaining, Ryan demonstrates convincingly how the cricketing experience of New Zealand was quite different from that of other colonies.