Cricket gets the Kiwi treat­ment

SPORTS TALK WITH Joseph Romanos

Auckland City Harbour News - - SPORT -

We’re about to begin the most ex­cit­ing six weeks in New Zealand cricket his­tory.

For the sec­ond time, New Zealand is co-host­ing the Cricket World Cup, and un­like 1992, the New Zealand team en­ters the tour­na­ment in great form and boasting a host of world stars.

New Zealan­ders no­ticed a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween the 1987 and 2011 Rugby World Cups. The growth be­tween the 1992 and 2015 Cricket World Cups will be equally ob­vi­ous.

In 1987, New Zealand hosted the in­au­gu­ral Rugby World Cup. The Home Na­tions weren’t keen on the tour­na­ment and a lot of the or­gan­i­sa­tion was seat-of-thep­ants stuff.

For ex­am­ple, no bud­get was al­lo­cated for the open­ing cer­e­mony. Schools near Eden Park were in­vited to hold the flags of the com­pet­ing teams. Some march­ing teams per­formed, and Auck­land Rugby chief ex­ec­u­tive Lew Pryme sang the na­tional an­them.

There was a tiny me­dia pres­ence and very few vis­it­ing sup­port­ers – when Italy played Ar­gentina at Lan­caster Park, only 3000 turned up.

Con­trast that to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, when New Zealand was del­uged with vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing hun­dreds of me­dia.

The num­ber of com­pet­ing teams had risen from 16 to 20 and the num­ber of matches from 32 to 48.

Rugby of­fi­cials claimed it was the world’s third big­gest sports event, af­ter the Olympics and the Foot­ball World Cup.

How­ever, cricket of­fi­cials claim the same thing about their world cup, so such grand state­ments should be treated cau­tiously.

Rugby has a big­ger world pull, with non-Com­mon­wealth coun­tries like France, Italy and Ar­gentina par­tic­u­larly strong. On the other hand, cricket may draw a big­ger au­di­ence be­cause of the huge in­ter­est in Asia.

The Cricket World Cup has been around longer – the first was in Eng­land in 1975. Even so, it was all rel­a­tively new in 1992.

That was the first World Cup to fea­ture a white ball, day-night matches and coloured cloth­ing, and South Africa made their de­but.

There were only nine teams, com­pared to 14 this time, in­clud­ing new­com­ers Afghanistan and United Arab Emi­rates.

In 1992, Martin Crowe’s team had had a ter­ri­ble sea­son and sup­port­ers’ ex­pec­ta­tions were low be­fore­hand.

How­ever, Crowe, An­drew Jones, Ken Ruther­ford and Mark Great­batch bat­ted well, Gavin Larsen, Wil­lie Wat­son, Chris Har­ris and Di­pak Pa­tel led the bowl­ing and the team got into a win­ning habit. Oddly in ret­ro­spect, Chris Cairns and Danny Mor­ri­son were rel­a­tively in­signif­i­cant fig­ures.

Crowe’s men fi­nally lost to Pak­istan in a thrilling semi­fi­nal. Ex­cept for Crowe and wick­et­keeper Ian Smith, the 1992 team had no world stars.

It’s dif­fer­ent this time. New Zealand have been in ex­cep­tional form and en­ter the tour­na­ment opener, against Sri Lanka in Christchurch on Satur­day, with high con­fi­dence.

Kane Wil­liamson, Bren­don McCul­lum and Ross Tay­lor are top-class bats­men and sev­eral oth­ers are scor­ing heav­ily. The team has tremen­dous hit­ting power.

The New Zealan­ders have five good pace bowlers, the world’s best one-day spin­ner in Daniel Vet­tori and ex­plo­sive wick­et­keeper-bats­man Luke Ronchi.

The Asian teams have played ap­pallingly in the build-up and the semi­fi­nal­ists loom as Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Eng­land.

South Africa, with two out­stand­ing bats­men in AB de Vil­liers and Hashim Amla, and three fine pace bowlers, are favourites, but New Zealand are cer­tainly in with a chance.

The whole show, which ends in Mel­bourne on March 29, will be cov­ered by a mas­sive me­dia army and sup­port­ers have flooded into Australia and New Zealand from all around the world.

It should be a cricket spec­tac­u­lar.

Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Fine form: The Black Caps are in fine form go­ing into the Cricket World Cup. The bowl­ing con­tin­gent will in­clude, from left: Adam Milne, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills and Mitchell McCle­naghan.

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