This die-hard New Zealand fan remembers the 1992 World Cup semifinal loss and talks about Black Caps’ chances in the 2015 edition.
I was just 11 when New Zealand last hosted the World Cup. I was staying in London back then but I remember staying up late in the night to watch some cricket. What a team it was! Mark Greatbatch, Dipak Patel, Ken Rutherford, Martin Crowe, all legends of New Zealand cricket.
The entire nation was backing the team and the glorious run ended with a loss to Pakistan in the semifinal. Personally, that was the tournament that got me hooked to cricket. It was the best group of players who represented the national team and they did us proud. I would later realise that Chris Harris is my distant cousin, from my mum’s side. It was another reason to follow the sport closely.
Twenty-three years on, the emotions of that semifinal loss are still raw. And as it turns out, this is the best New Zealand team we’ve had since the summer of 1992. Once again, the entire nation is backing the team and it’ll be a shame if we do not do well.
Cricket isn’t the top sport in New Zealand anymore. Rugby of course occupies place of pride followed by soccer because it is so easy to understand. Cricket has its complex set of rules which might be a bit intimidating for a new fan but still, it is one sport that is religiously followed in the country.
Generally, you follow rugby and soccer in the winter where as cricket is the number one summer sport, no doubt. And the way it is followed, it’s designed to be a family sport. You generally meet at a friend’s place or with family and watch the cricket with barbeque and stuff. With rugby and soccer, it’s more about mates meeting at pubs over a few pints and that’s it. You can follow cricket more leisurely, it’s a social thing.
That’s the reason you’ll see less people at the stadium for a cricket match and more fans following it on television and radio. The matches are too long for people to see at stadium, you end up spending the whole day there. Still, there is a decent audience for a match. But it’s huge on TV. The shorter version has helped too. It’s attracted more new followers and the kids have started to take more interest in the sport because of T20.
But the number of people who’ll go to the stadiums for the matches will be huge during the World Cup. I myself am going for two matches. There are eight of us going for the opening match against Sri Lanka and then I am talking my family for the match against Scotland. Even the warm-up matches saw good crowds while the venue for opening ceremony packed.
The hype this time is great, almost as much as the rugby World Cup that was held four years ago. Maybe that’s because we have a really good team this time. The boys are playing tremendous cricket and that has raised hopes of the entire country.
New Zealand have always been the underperformers on the world stage but there is a general feeling that it might change this time round. Semifinal is the least that we are expecting. It will be a big disappointment if we do not reach the last four.
It’s a rollercoaster feeling to be a New Zealand fan. Sometimes embarrassing too because of the inconsistency of the team. We will beat Australia on one day and lose to Bangladesh the other. But the current team, led by Brendon McCullum has done really well in the last few months in all conditions which fills us with hope.
I and Brendon went to the same school, Kings High in Dunedin. He was a great athlete since then, exceptional in whatever he played – be it cricket or rugby. Last year, I was listening to the radio commentary when he scored 300 against India at Wellington and all those memories from school days came flooding back. In Brendon, we have a great leader and an even better cricketer. He has the capacity to carry this team on his shoulders and cross the line. It’s about how well the team copes with the pressure.
Among the group stage matches, I hope we manage to beat Australia. It’s always been like this big brother-little brother relationship where the big brother is always dominating. Now the little brother has started punching back and hopefully, we’ll continue to do that even during the World Cup. It’s a good-natured rivalry. West Indies and South Africa are the other two good teams. I know West Indies have had a torrid build up but they’ve some explosive players who can really do well in the smaller grounds in New Zealand.
This Cup means a world for us at Christchurch. We’ve endured a tough time after the earthquake and this has been an opportunity to rebuild. The city has put its best foot forward to welcome the world. The city is decked up for the event. There’s a fan village in the city centre and the hype is huge.
Hopefully, the New Zealand team too will get inspired by it, go a step forward and wipe off the memories of 1992, giving us a reason to celebrate.
Design director, Christchurch
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