In the WT20, things happen faster than John Key binning his Lockwood flag pin. The ICC are usually renowned for spreading tournaments out over several decades, but for this one a fast game’s a good game and you can be on the plane home before your phone has finished charging. Just ask South Africa or Bangladesh. This year is a bit special too, a WT20 in India, home of the DLF Maximum and whatever’s happening here, is cricket’s New World Order in its lair.
Pre-tournament, the BLACKCAPS were talking their chances down as meticulously as they work out a bowling plan. A T20 tournament on the low sub continent wickets in a group with three Asian sides and Australia and without the really recently-retired skipper / talisman and the best T20 batsmen ever? Piss off.
The were wrong. Inspirational team selection, young spinners taking it to the opposition, batsmen sticking to plans on tough wickets… going into the opening match with three spinners was a master stroke that took the hosts’ pants down. I’ve checked and we were the only team to play the opening match without their traditional two spearhead bowling attack – and this is how it’s going to be, gang. When one of the world’s deepest cricket thinkers takes the reigns alongside the smartest coach in the business, you know things are about to get really, really pragmatic.
It’s turned out OK though. When your senior bowler has spent the tournament in hi-vis but is still happy to make a video for the folks back home, that’s some serious team culture. Could you imagine McGrath doing the same?
We’ve traditionally struggled on these pitches, but this time we have a plan. The batsmen have been doing whatever it takes to get us a total, cashing in with the hard new ball before knuckling down when it turns into a cushion with a seam later on. The young spinners have looked like world beaters, while the seamers have played with intelligence and some fire, mastering one of my favourite aspects of T20, bowlers playing their overs like a hand of 500, all slower balls, cutters, slow bouncers and effort balls.
The win in the opener, playing the hosts in one of their strongholds in the format they’ve invested so much cash and emotion in, was one of our most remarkable wins ever in sportreview.net.nz’s opinion, and we made it look easy. We strangled the Aussies in the Himalayas before taking down traditional Bogey Team Pakistan (are we over 92 yet?) comfortably. All three wins have been exemplary examples of Not Panicking and sticking to your plans.
We should keep the momentum up against Bangladesh, before most people go home and we’re left with (hopefully) two big games. With the sub continent teams struggling, this is an open tournament – we’re as organised as anyone and should be confident taking anyone on. We’re well capable of winning a Big World Trophy and do it in such foreign conditions, even in the purists’ least favourite format, would be quite an achievement.
Pretty much every game from here is crucial to the tournament’s outcome, so dream big NZ – get on board the woeful viewing times and get excited (but not so excited as to wake the rest of the house). We’re in with a great shout of winning this, especially because sportreview.net.nz is predicting a NZ v Aus final and sportreview.net.nz’s prediction track record is shithouse, bluntly.