Written by Sriram Veera | | Melbourne | | March 29, 2015 9:31:24 am
It was nearly 1.30 am in New Zealand on Sunday morning, Saturday night really, and the talk-back radio from Auckland was still crackling on about the World Cup final. An elderly male caller, Kevin, dialled in to talk about the pressure of the people’s hopes on the cricket team.
There had been talk on the show with the host Gary about whether the cricket frenzy that has hit New Zealand and the resultant pressure of expectation, will affect the team’s nerves.
Kevin was of the opinion it wouldn’t. “Rugby All blacks are expected to win. With cricket team, we hope they win. If they lose, we are not going to have two weeks of moaning on talk-back radio chat. So I don’t think it’s that kind of pressure. We, as a country, are behind this cricket team.”
It’s probably a spot-on observation. Brendon McCullum and his men know it and are thriving under this kind of rare spotlight on them. Couple of days ago, just before Australia took on India, McCullum met his national selector Bruce Edgar and over a few beers, stated his desire to meet Australia in the final.
McCullum didn’t want India but wanted to meet and beat Australia at their backyard.
McCullum wants to make the World Cup even more special by triumphing in the Trans-Tasman rivalry. One Australian isn’t surprised. John Buchanan, who quit in June 2013 after two turbulent years as Director of New Zealand cricket, knows McCullum well, going back to the 2009 IPL in South Africa.
Buchanan was the coach and McCullum was the captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders during their dismal run.
McCullum offered to quit as captain then, and it was emotional times for McCullum who was clearly finding it difficult to lead the side, and be in control of his emotions.
“McCullum is a passionate and emotional person and his team have responded to him. He is a real competitor, a cheeky sort of a guy. Now I think he has learnt how to control his emotions and use them to his advantage,” Buchanan told The Sunday Express.
Buchanan remembers the time when McCullum wanted to quit as captain. “When things weren’t going his way, he wanted to step away. I told him that’s not the best thing to do, not for himself or for the team. I think he wanted to hear that from me. McCullum really feels the pain of loss and KKR was losing relentlessly. No wonder, he was affected. My memory of him as a captain is that he is a person who likes to win and lead from front. He is a kind of a guy who is a better captain when his personal form is good. Like many captains,” Buchanan said.
“New Zealand have been winning and he has brought his aggressive style and led them magnificently. He has been batting well and commands authority within the team and from the opposition. I think under McCullum, New Zealand will be really desperate to beat Australia and get their hands on the World Cup.”
On Saturday afternoon, McCullum was at MCG, answering questions ranging from the size of MCG to emotional presence of Martin Crowe for the final. McCullum looked pretty confident and actually relaxed ahead of the big encounter. The fans back home might be finding it difficult to even watch, but McCullum has been keeping it pretty cool.
“Nothing is too difficult. There is no challenge which is insurmountable. With a lot of hard work, a lot of heart, a lot of belief and make sure everyone’s heading in the same direction. You are able to play a brand of cricket that gives you your greatest chance and that’s what we have had throughout this World Cup and we have built it over a period of time. Again, it doesn’t guarantee you success but it gives you the greatest chance. I know tomorrow we’ll still remain authentic to how we play. And hopefully the big fella upstairs shines on us when the pressure situations come into play.” McCullum said.
Meanwhile, as late as 3 am Auckland time, the talk radio was still churning out the cricket talk. In the land of Rugby, cricket is holding a nation breathless. And sleepless.