Mortimer piloting Kiwis' flight

Mortimer  piloting Kiwis' flight

All-rounder Scott Styris says Roger Mortimer is trying to use his experience of training Olympic athletes to improve the New Zealand cricket team’s preparations. Reuters

The win has thrust the Black Caps to second in the ICC one-day rankings table, ahead of India, and while New Zealand must win against Sri Lanka on Friday to retain that position, it’s the larger goal, the World Cup, that is occupying their minds. “It’s everyone’s goal to be number one in the world and if we can take a step closer towards it, then that’s fantastic,” off-spinner Nathan McCullum said on Wednesday. “We are number two in the world at the moment, whether it is for one game or not. It’s great to be there, but we are definitely striving to keep up the momentum.”

Mortimer is a respected Olympic mentor whose primary task with the cricket team is to oversee the players’ individual preparations, and ensure that the support staff are implementing the best possible training programmes.

Mortimer himself likes to avoid the limelight and New Zealand have kept him wrapped in in cotton wool, ruling out any interaction with him for the time being, but his reputation as the man who guided cyclist Sarah Ulmer and triathlete Hamish Carter to Olympic glory precedes him. Having spent time with the Kiwis during their home summer as a consultant and temporary manager, his full-time role was formalised just over two months back. Carter, who won gold at Athens in 2004, has said one of Mortimer's key strengths was to ‘clear away the clutter and provide clarity on what exactly is needed to be done to achieve your best performance’. Regular skipper Daniel Vettori, not on tour, too has lauded Mortimer’s role and methods, saying the mentor was trying to ‘put together an opportunity for someone to improve’. “Roger's making sure things are organised, he's driving players to be the best they can be,” Vettori has been quoted as saying.

On Tuesday night, Scott Styris also threw light on the contribution of the performance manager. “We are trying to be a lot more professional in the way we do things,” Styris remarked. “Roger has worked a lot with Olympic athletes in New Zealand. He is trying to use that experience to improve our trainings. We are a lot more specific, a lot more game-situation based with our practices now. We are trying to take notes down in our preparation for the World Cup next year.” For a long time now, New Zealand have been the perennial over-achievers in world cricket, especially in multi-national ICC events. They have won just one big title, the ICC Knockout Trophy in Nairobi in 2000, but have invariably been involved in the business end of the competition, often bowing out in the semifinals. Last year, they took a giant step by breaking the semifinal jinx and making the final of the Champions Trophy in South Africa. It might be an exaggeration to anoint them one of the favourites for the World Cup, but keep an eye on them!

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