Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Zealand: No stars but one team

To say that the hosts face an uphill struggle to make the semis of the 2007 World Cup is an understatement. They need to win all four of their remaining matches and in two of them they are up against South Africa and Sri Lanka. I expect them to lose both.

The Kiwis surge forward
The game today was fascinating if only to observe New Zealand’s advent to the last four. They are a bits and pieces team, to be sure. If you picked a best-of type of team, only Shane Bond, with his express pace and deadly line would make the cut. But what New Zealand does well is to pick the direction they want to go in and then pass the hat around for contributions. And each member of the team weighs in with something, no matter how small. In India, an old saying goes “oceans are filled one drop at a time.” It all adds up.

A lack of partnerships
Think of a toddler trying to stack 5 blocks in a tower. And every time she puts that 4th one, the tower tumbles. That’s what the West Indian batting was like today. They just couldn’t get a partnership going. And the tall and broad shouldered Jacob Oram extracted whatever modest juice was in the pitch to send the middle order back into the pavilion.

Yet when New Zealand batted, they had to negotiate a terrific spell from Ricardo Powell, who is enjoying a marvelous tournament. Nerves must have jangled as the clouds gathered and Duckworth-Lewis became a factor. They needed a sensible person to anchor the innings and protect the wickets. That person turned out to be Scott Styris.

Enter Scott Styris
Styris looks pugnacious – his face is squeezed into an expression of constant worry. Even his smile looks like a grimace. He doesn’t ooze class when he bats. And he can tend to dry up on run-getting ideas against spinners. Taking his time to score the early runs, Styris relied on Fleming and later Macmillan to keep the scoreboard ticking. And the teamwork showed, because his partners seemed to understand their roles perfectly and delivered.

If I was a member of the Indian cricket team, I’d be watching every minute of every New Zealand game closely. If we could play as cohesively as them, we would wipe the floor with Australia.

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