Cricket gets the Kiwi treatment
SPORTS TALK WITH Joseph Romanos
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.
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.