Over the past four days I’ve enjoyed a running joke with a handful of close sports-mad mates regarding the weather forecast at Trent Bridge, England, last night.
The joke has been that I’ve been praying for England’s recent inclement weather to continue and ‘rain-out’ the Cricket World Cup match between our beloved Black Caps and India. Now, ordinarily, this is the last thing that any of us would want to occur. Under normal, non-World Cup, circumstances.
However, it is the World Cup! And India are an intimidating team to come up against, especially when the Black Caps are well positioned top of the table with four games played, five remaining and with a crucial match against an out-of-form South African team looming next.
Win that fixture and the Black Caps are in a very strong position to secure a semi-final spot.
I committed to doing a rain dance every day (there is no photographic evidence) and my efforts were duly rewarded with last night’s match being rained off, meaning that both teams are awarded one point each. A great result for New Zealand. A frustrating result for the hot favourites in the situation – India.
I’ve been concerned about the prospect of the Black Caps falling to a crushing morale draining loss to this very formidable India side. So, I should be happy with this outcome, shouldn’t I?
Except, now that it has come to pass, I actually feel a bit cheap and nasty. This kind of cynical attitude to progressing at a World Cup isn’t very ‘sporting,’ is it.
New Zealanders as a nation like to pride themselves on being ‘good sports’. And conversely, we love to look down on our less scrupulous neighbours across the ditch, who we all know (and I mean “all” in a global sense) are far less concerned with being ‘good sports’ when it comes to the pursuit of victory on the fields of sporting battle. We love to condescend them for this.
Anyhow, despite this slightly dishonourable attitude, I’ve decided I am still very happy with the wash-out result. The Proteas are languishing ninth on the table with three losses and one solitary wash-out point and I desperately want us to beat this psychologically wounded South African side. Another defeat for them might just prove to be the coup de grace that knocks them out of the tournament.
We have copped so many painful, at times devastatingly one-sided, defeats at the hands of outstandingly good Proteas teams over the years. Contrary to that trend was the Black Caps semifinal win over the Proteas at Eden Park at the last World Cup, in New Zealand. It was incredibly sweet for all Kiwi cricket fans. The ‘Bearded Javelin’ (Grant Elliot) pulled of a heroic and unlikely feat of run-chasing brilliance that day and he was extremely well supported by his teammates.
I was lucky enough to be there on what used to be the terraces at Eden Park that day/night and it was the most electric, tense, dramatic and ultimately joyous sporting atmosphere I have ever experienced.
The twists and turns of that game were actually spine-tingling. It was sporting theatre at its finest. So, can you blame me for wanting a similarly unforgettable match and result this coming Wed 19 June?
Confidence can be a fickle thing in sport. Especially when our national cricket team are always wearing the underdog mantle as bravely as they can.
Our players need to ‘redline’ their talent to the max in order to beat the heavyweight sides in international cricket. Teams such as India, Australia, South Africa and England are always, on the whole, going to be stacked with more prodigiously talented players. So, the Black Caps know they need to maximise all of their talent, all their cunning, all their tactical intelligence and all their physical commitment to beat the heavyweights of international cricket at a World Cup.
In light of all this, my silly rain dances and cynical happiness at last night’s wash-out draw are excusable, right? The competition is about to become far more demanding for the Black Caps and going forwards their form is going to have to go up a level, as they go toe-to-toe with the very best of international cricket. The Black Caps will embrace that, they’ll welcome the challenge and it’ll be a hugely exciting to witness. New Zealand cricket fans can stomach defeat in the knock-out stages. We all know, deep down, that to progress to the final is an exceptional achievement.
These are the experiences that elevate our lives from the day-to-day grind of working life. If we make another World Cup final, I might even jump on a plane and fly 18,327 kilometres to England to be there in the stands (don’t tell the wife).
So, c’mon you Black Caps! No more rain dances required. Let’s scalp the Proteas at back-to-back World Cups and let’s charge forwards with confidence against the other hot contenders: England, Australia and the West Indies (and of course India).
There’s nothing like a World Cup to make a sports fan’s life more exciting. I’ll be doing an anti-rain dance from now on.