Wellington, Feb 9: Some of the greatest cricketers in the history of the game will swap bats for golf clubs, and battle at the BMW New Zealand Open when they line up for Golf in Queenstown ANZ Celebrity Challenge from March 12-15.
West Indians Viv Richards and Brian Lara, Englishmen Ian Botham and Graeme Swann, Australians Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne and New Zealand's Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle and Mark Richardson will all be contesting the event, as amateur golfers in a Pro-Am teams format, to be branded the ANZ Celebrity Challenge.
Botham returns after first playing as a celebrity at The Hills in 2013, jumping at the chance to take up the challenge again this year.
"I find it difficult to turn down the chance to come and play golf in New Zealand, especially in Queenstown with its stunning scenery and fantastic food and wine," said Botham.
"I have played in the Dunhill event for many years, and it's just great to see a tournament played across similar lines being held in New Zealand".
An added incentive for Botham this year is the chance to play alongside legend Viv Richards.
The two enjoyed a great rivalry on the cricket field during the 1980s.
Meanwhile, former New Zealand captain Fleming and long time Australian rival Ponting are back for the second year running to try to beat each other on the manicured fairways of The Hills and Millbrook.
'I can't wait to pit my golfing skills'
Ponting showed his golfing class with six birdies in the opening round in 2013, so Fleming will have his work cut out to beat his former nemesis.
Ponting was just thrilled to be coming back for another shot. "I can't wait for the chance to pit my golfing skills again with some of the best cricketing names in the game. The BMW New Zealand Open is a fantastic event and I love coming to Queenstown to be part of the action," he said.
Fleming was equally enthused. "This tournament is always a key date in my diary. It's heaps of fun, especially as I get to battle it out with my cricketing peers on the golf course in such a beautiful setting," said Fleming.
Shane Warne added that he was "really excited to be a part of the Pro-Am" and that "hopefully I can find some form before the tournament starts. I absolutely loved my last round at The Hills late last year, and am looking forward to getting back out there again".