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April 5, 2011 | by  | in Online Only |
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The 7th Inning Stretch – The great World Cup Dream is over for the Blackcaps

The great World Cup dream is over for the Blackcaps.

Call it ambitious, call it optimistic, call it plain patriotic blindness, but it wasn’t all that bad.

Considering prior expectations, in fact, it was quite good – nobody expected us to go this far, even on the lucky side of the draw, and that quarter-final against South Africa was one of our best performances in recent years. Bundled out in the semi-final (again), the Blackcaps exceeded expectations, and equalled their best performance at the tournament.
But is it reasonable to look back on this happily?

Look at our progression through to the penultimate match. We thrashed Canada, Zimbabwe and Kenya (bravo), were soundly beaten by Australia and Sri Lanka (twice), and stood up against a decent opposition on two occasions – in the group match against Pakistan and the quarter-final epic against the Proteas. On that logic, it’s hard to give much more than a pass mark.

Mind you, it was very satisfying to finally see New Zealand show a bit of hunger in that quarter-final. For too long they have seemed slightly disinterested, their minds on the paychecks of IPL and Twenty20 cricket. Even if at one point the aggression boiled a tad too far, it was still heart warming to see – at last – that we do have a cricket team that want to play for our country. But it was too little, too late.

A quarter-final exit was the largely expected result for New Zealand. Semi-finals were a long, long way away for the team that entered the tournament. It was a typical ‘one game at a time’ effort. So most New Zealanders will look back on the final result and say, well, we exceeded expectations. Having said that, no losing semi-finalist will ever be happy.
In my mind, the Blackcaps can take a lot from this World Cup. Looking towards their next effort, there are a few young blokes in the team who can learn a lot – Williamson, Southee, especially – and the promise of some new leaders in four years’ time. John Wright’s style is logical, and – when correctly applied – effective. Some tactics, like Brendon McCullum opening the batting is, in my mind, a failure.

But what has previously plagued New Zealand Cricket is the failure to learn from such exploits, and I for one sincerely hope this is a habit the governing body wants to put a halt to. Look at the last four years; the national team underwent overwhelming changes at far too regular intervals. Coaches swapped, the captain’s job became more and more complex, and the selectors table was a merry-go-round. The focus of the national body seemed to be on a short-term, rather than long term goal.

New Zealand sports fans are now craving more World Cup success in our major sports. I think few rugby fans in the country, for example, would turn their noses at a World Cup win, if even at the cost of the Tri-Nations for three years. Cricket ought to take a leaf out of rugby’s book, and maintain a World Cup focus. The Blackcaps have constantly proven to be a force at World Cups, but are just lacking at that last (well, technically, second to last) hurdle. A touch of long-term preparation might well see them push just over that line.
There was a time not too long ago where the Blackcaps might have considered themselves one of the best limited overs cricket teams in the world. Somehow that faded before this World Cup, a mixture of poor preparation and declining talent. No doubt there’s some skill in the country’s cricketers. If only twice, we did show glimpses of that capability. I don’t think the idea of a World Cup in four years’ time is too impossible, especially one held in here and in Australia. It will take some serious focus from the national body, but it’s doable.

And, if I’m wrong, well, we always have the All Blacks.

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