New Zealand

It is one of the more famous facts of Scottish sport that generations of world-class rugby stars have come and gone and none of them have ever tasted victory against the All Blacks in a Scotland jersey.

Yet, while scores of talismanic figures, be it Zinzan Brooke or Sean Fitzpatrick, the late Jonah Lomu or Dan Carter, have entered the IRB’s Hall of Fame, cricket success has proved altogether more elusive.

As somebody who has visited Dunedin and Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, perhaps that isn’t surprising. The first cab driver I met en route to Dunedin wanted to talk about Bill McLaren, John Rutherford, Jim Telfer….and sheep. Cricket was as much off the radar as a straight route from A to B was off the meter!

But recently, these experiences have made me think the best thing that could happen in global cricket was if the Black Caps triumphed at the World T20. So far, they have been impeccable, but all the focus elsewhere has been on the likes of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Shahid Afridi, Joe Root and Tillekaratne Dilshan. Indeed, in the absence of Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand side has pretty much crept under the radar.

Thank heavens for anonymity if their results are any indication. Perhaps, if bold, brash Brendon had been there, the expectations might have been higher and maybe unreasonably so.

Yet, where it has mattered, in every department, the Black Caps have been all-conquering and thoroughly deserve their place in the semis after four consecutive wins, including skittling India and Bangladesh for under 100.

They possess all the right ingredients. There’s sheer, unbridled power from Martin Guptill, sinewy aggression from Ross Taylor, muscular belligerence from Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott and Colin Munro, and, of course, the refulgent class of their captain, Kane Williamson, who is one of a very small coterie of batsmen – I also include Joe Root, Stephen Smith and Kohli – who can transform the course of a contest, not through brutality, but with clinical control.

But the New Zealanders are an almighty tough proposition wherever you look. If the pitches are turning, they have Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Nathan McCullum and Williamson himself in what is a potent formation.

But if there is a trace of pace or bounce, they are even better, to the stage where their selectors surely have to indulge in protracted discussions whenever they attempt to choose their best team.

They have Trent Boult: a true Test star. Tim Southee: ditto. But they also have a precocious paceman in Adam Milne and the glowering presence of Mitchell McClenaghan, who always looks capable of turning any minor kerfuffle into a major Donnybrook.

It is a seriously effective unit, one which has proved that a small country – New Zealand has only 4.8m people, a million fewer than Scotland – can transcend adversity and push for international accolades.

I’ll be supporting them for the rest of the tournament. I thought they were a trifle unfortunate in the World Cup last year, but even without McCullum, snr, one of the few genuine T20 superstars, they have shown they have power across the spectrum.

Sri Lanka won this event last time around, but history isn’t going to repeat itself in this instance. No matter. What a coup it would be if the genial Williamson’s squad marched on from here and claimed the main prize next weekend.

On the evidence of what we’ve witnessed so far, nobody could argue they didn’t deserve it.

1 Reply to "New Zealand"

  • comment-avatar
    Neil Drysdale
    March 27, 2016 (9:51 am)

    I also think it would be good for the future of cricket if New Zealand won the World T20 because they aren’t obsessed with the short form of the game.

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