Kiwis show the way for high-profile teams

Kiwis show the way for high-profile teams

With a remarkably small pool to choose from in a sport that isn’t the most popular or widely embraced in the tiny island nation, the Kiwis have made the knockout stage of major international events with a regularity that would put more high-profile teams to shame.

Admittedly, their only significant accomplishment was their wonderful run to the title in the ICC Knockout Trophy in Nairobi in 2000, when Chris Cairns orchestrated a stirring victory in the final against India. Scratch the surface, though, and you will see that given their limited resources, New Zealand have managed the reach the semifinals of five of the nine World Cups, and three of the six Champions Trophies to date.

Traditionally redoubtable in their own uniquely challenging conditions, the Kiwis aren’t the best travellers, especially to the sub-continent and more so in the longest version, but when it comes to limited-overs cricket, they have forever remained competitive without managing to go the distance on a consistent basis.

A string of mercurial players better suited to tackle the demands of the one-day game but some way short of attaining greatness in the Test match arena has been singularly responsible for the consistency with which the Kiwis make it to the knockout stage of big tournaments.

Men like Cairns, Shane Bond, Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum, current skipper Daniel Vettori, Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder are all impact players, and while some of them have the quality to stamp their class in the Test format, a majority of them are more suited to the more immediate but less technical demands of the limited-overs game.

“I suppose it’s about time we made a final then!” Vettori said on Tuesday night, only half in jest, of New Zealand’s impressive semifinal appearances in major events, a short while after his side defeated England by four wickets to secure their last-four berth in the Champions Trophy.

“I am not sure what it is,” he added, unable to put a finger on why they do so well so often in the preliminary stages of multi-team tournaments. “I suppose it is the determination within the group when we come to these tournaments. It is an expectation of us as a one-day team to get to the knockout stage, and we have been a pretty good one-day team over the years. That’s about people’s expectations, it’s now up to us to deliver a little bit more than that.”

What has made this current expedition even more satisfying is that it has come in vastly differing conditions, and without three key players, ruled out of the competition at various stages due to injuries. “With the injuries we have had to our team, we have lost three pretty key players in Jesse Ryder (groin), Jacob Oram (hamstring) and Daryl Tuffey (broken hand),” Vettori pointed out. “For the group to come together and still be able to put together a performance like that is the most satisfying thing. We know that when we get to the semifinals, it could be anyone’s day. We are just hoping it is ours.”