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If only.......[Kiwis could fly!]
by Venu Bolisetty
Oct 11, 2007
Ifs and buts cannot change reality. It does offer an alternate landscape in which one controls outcomes. Twelve months, three semi-finals and an empty trophy case later, fans of New Zealand cricket are bound to contemplate and wonder what could have been. Three consecutive tournaments in the last Twelve months have seen the Black caps progress to semifinals and little have they made of those chances. Every semi-final brought fresh hope but every match was a Sisyphean challenge.

It began with the ICC Champions Trophy held last October in India. New Zealand played well to reach the semi-finals, losing only to Sri Lanka in the earlier stages. A mouth-watering trans Tasman contest with Australia loomed in the semi-finals. The day arrives and Australia bat first. A good bowling and fielding effort from them restricts Australia’s score to 240. A job well done! Order the champagne! This is a cakewalk for the long and effective batting line-up of New Zealand. Alas, an hour into the game and New Zealand has lost six wickets for a grand total of 35. Curtains! Not quite. Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori forge a hundred run partnership and they’re back on track.

For a fleeting moment hope returns, only to see it squashed by the dismissal of Oram. Vettori then proceeds to build an innings mixing aggression with sensibility -knocking the ball around for singles and dispatching bad balls to the boundary. Nostalgia arrives. Remember, two years ago, in a similarly low scoring match against Australia, Kyle Mills hit four sixes towards the end of the run chase to inch them within striking distance of the victory. As Franklin and Vettori depart, reality sets in. Perhaps, some other time.

Few months from that semi-final loss New Zealand played Sri Lanka in the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup. For the first time in many years New Zealand was considered a favourite to win the cup. As long as I remember they were always the dark horses - the ability to surprise opponents, but not consistent enough to go the distance. Under the tutelage of Stephen Fleming, the best captain in recent times, they formed an efficient, cohesive union that was growing in confidence. They only lost to Sri Lanka and Australia in the super eight rounds. They decided to field a weaker team against Australia and were roundly thrashed but, wrongly, few paid attention to that loss.

Sri Lanka batted first again. New Zealand bowled well and at a pivotal point Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan skipper, was dropped on 69 and goes on to score another 46 runs in a hurry. His innings was a hands-on guide on pacing one’s Innings in an ODI. His extra runs pushed the score a good thirty runs above where it should’ve been and undoubtedly had a negative impact on the Black caps innings. This time around the Black Caps barely looked like they had a chance. For a brief moment, when Scott Styris and Peter Fulton where smashing the ball around, there was hope. After all, we remember in 2003 the magnificent century Scott Styris hit last world cup against the Sri Lankans. Surely, if he did it again they’re in the finals. Then Muralitharan comes in, a few quick wickets. Yada, yada, yada.

Some weeks ago, during the semi-finals of the enthralling Twenty20 World cup the humiliation was complete. Once again New Zealand lost to Sri Lanka during the early stages of the tournament. That should have been the harbinger of things to come. But once again, mere mortals as we are, hope returns. At one stage New Zealand had the most number of sixes and given this format it should have translated to better performances. After a shaky second round in which they had to rely on India to gain entry into the semi-finals. In the semi-finals against a rejuvenated Pakistan team they failed to ever get off the ground. New Zealand’s strongest suite has been fielding but, their fielding was unrecognizable. They dropped two crucial catches and poor ground fielding essentially meant they were never in the race.

The mind goes racing back to those dropped catches, the stumping of Oram, those four sixes that never came and the Styris innigs that came four years too early. I wonder, as physicists say, if a parallel universe exists in which this article didn’t have to be written. If only…

Post script: As I was compiling this article All Blacks, the New Zealand Rugby team, lost to France in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World cup. I know next to nothing about Rugby and from what I’ve heard: the current All Blacks team is supposedly the best team that has ever played. After the cricket team lost a few weeks ago, I jokingly told friends that the Rugby team would win the world cup and all would return to normalcy. Needless to say, I’ve been ignoring a few phone calls.

 
More Views by Venu Bolisetty
  Some good days and some bad days
  Enough is enough!
  If only.......[Kiwis could fly!]
  Spare a thought for the true men in White!
  Vaughan is most elegant
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