Another game, and another convincing win for the Black Caps. Much of the hype has simmered down since the incredible game against Australia last week, as the focus has instead turned to key individual performers, and the greater context of the cricket World Cup going forward.
Daniel Vettori has deservedly, and unsurprisingly, received a lot of press, given that he became the first New Zealander to take 300 ODI wickets the other day. This was much more than just acknowledgement of a milestone, though, as he has surprised everybody with his wicket taking exploits this World Cup. Despite concerns over his fitness, everybody expected Vettori to bowl economically. He has been doing it for so long, everyone takes that bit for granted. But Vettori has not taken wickets this consistently in a very long time. Indeed, one wonders what Vettori could have achieved over his career had he always been part of such a well-rounded and balanced attack.
Brendon McCullum, meanwhile, has been at the centre of much more heated debate. A controversial figure his entire career, there is a school of thought that perhaps he has overstepped the line with his ultra-aggressive approach. No one can fault his captaincy, of course. Indeed, some are suggesting his captaincy could be as influential as Martin Crowe’s was in the 1992 World Cup.
However, his swashbuckling approach with the bat has been discussed in depth. Should he be going as hard as he is, or should he attempt to bat through the innings? The argument, I think, will only rise in volume as we near the quarterfinals, but local pundits are already throwing their weight around.
But perhaps we should cast an eye at how the media outside New Zealand is considering McCullum’s performances, and, right now, he is hot property. A lot can be said about how we should view McCullum when the media across the Tasman claims that he seems more Aussie than Kiwi. Indeed, we look up to our neighbours so much in regards to their cricketing pedigree that we take this as genuine compliment, which definitely goes against our natural instincts when an Australian claims one of ours as their own.
Indeed, along with Kane Williamson following that six, McCullum is reaching cult status in New Zealand. The nation stops to watch him bat. And, for all the discussion surrounding his approach, right now McCullum is comfortably New Zealand’s highest scorer of the tournament, with 249 runs at 49.80, with a scarcely believable strike rate of 193.02. Let’s appreciate him for who he is and what he is.
The World Cup format has also been scrutinised heavily, with a lot of interest in the ten-team proposal. I have not met one person or read anything that agrees that a ten-team tournament is remotely progressive for the game. Most of the associates have put in commendable performances and surely deserve more time to prove themselves. Teams such as Ireland are now consistently pushing, and at times beating, the full-member nations. While Crowe’s assertion that a 25-team World Cup is the way forward was scoffed, I think that the support at the games including associates demonstrates the value that the public believe they bring to the World Cup. How is cricket to ever truly become a global sport if we consistently isolate those desperate to play?