There is no aura around this New Zealand team. Nothing is legendary about them. It’s like a bunch of boys chasing a dream, a big World Cup dream. They have been at this stage before, six times in all. Semi-finals of World Cup are nothing new for the Black Caps but this time they have the best chance.(Full Coverage| Venues | Fixtures)
Coming into the semi-final, the Brendon McCullum-led unit have had some brilliant performances.
Right from the start of the tournament when they faced Sri Lanka in their first match, everything ticked for them. Bowlers rattled the batting of the opposition and batsmen made runs with utmost ease It’s been a boring repeat of the same since then.
One wonders who are the players who have not performed for them till now? Everyone has, in one match or the other. Individual performances are all New Zealand are about. But there is something more than that to this team.
Against West Indies, a ball hit Marlon Samuels’ bat and it went over slips cordon and was racing. Five fielders chased it down with same intensity. It showed the spirit of the team and a fire in them to put in the extra effort for the team.
It was a quarter-final and New Zealand had posted 393 on the board. Given the form of their bowlers, they shouldn’t have bothered about an edge that would have gone for a lucky boundary. But it mattered. They wanted to dominate, and make the opposition earn runs and wickets.
Right at the start of a match, New Zealand look like a team of great commitment. During team huddles, they bubble with energy and send out very positive vibes. Nothing seems different with them but they are a different team than all the previous ones.
Martin Crowe and Stephen Fleming were great leaders but they could not win a knockout match. New Zealand won their first knockout match in World Cup in 2011 against South Africa, a team which has poor knockout record as them.
McCullum and his team have all the boxes checked to advance to what will be their biggest match. But can they? They have a few questions to answer.
After McCullum, can the other batsmen fire? What if Trent Boult and Tim Southee fail? Can this team chase?
These questions have been long there and New Zealand have answered all. Martin Guptill against West Indies showed what he can do when his opening partner is back in the hut early. They chased twice and won.
Southee hasn’t looked at his best since that remarkable spell against England. Boult, on the other hand, has looked phenomenal. He bowled 10 overs on the trot against the West Indies. The problem of fifth bowler is their but New Zealand have never reached a situation where they need to find an exceptional fifth bowler.
These questions will be of less importance against South Africa. It is a now or nothing situation. They have no time to address questions now. Instead, McCullum and his team will find a way out because they always have. They will force the batsmen to get out by setting attacking fields (McCullum has redefined ODI field settings). They will chase down even if the bowl is hit with sheer power. They will do everything.
Eden Park will be the place to be in come Tuesday. New Zealand is a team we haven’t seen in the past. Five fielders chasing the ball off an edge, a 36-year-old taking a catch that is nothing less than being unfair to the batsman and New Zealand batsmen sending opposition bowlers on the top of stadium roof. How many times have we seen all that from the same team?
There will be no questions on Tuesday. There will be only answers. New Zealand will be chasing a dream that will redefine cricket in the country, a dream that will make this team legendary.