More perhaps than in any other sport, a great cricket team represents a great division of labour.
Brendon McCullum’s Black Caps are a great cricket team.
In times past New Zealand cricket teams have had one or two champions, and have at rare times had some pretty good teams.
This team is a great team. A champion team. And as they say, a champion team will always beat a team of champions.
The gods of chance rarely smile on everyone in a batting or bowling lineup every day, and not everything every player tries will come off. But you do need them all to be trying, all taking necessary risks; and if the failures do start to mount and pressure begins to impinge, when someone fails, or a whole lineup looks to be struggling, someone in every champion team needs to stand up and say “It’s my day today.”
NZ's internationals haven’t always been good at that, let's be brutally honest, but for me that’s one of the great things about this team moulded in Brendon McCullum’s image: on any given day when the pressure come on , they all now know that some one of them will stand up manfully to do the job.
Kane Williamson holding together an innings after his openers and all but one of his batting partners have gone; Martin Guptill carrying his bat and setting records, making it easier for his partners at the other end; Boult or Southee taking wickets when other bowlers aren’t; or, last night, new boy Matt Henry stepping into the breach in a semi-final cauldron to bowl two sorely-needed maidens1; or Corey Anderson and Grant Elliot accumulating runs when things were starting to go pear-shaped allowing Elliot the chance, the slim chance, to hit the match-winning final-entering six to win a semi-final with just one ball to spare!
And wasn’t that moment just glorious! It’s memory will be savoured for years to come by everyone who cheered the ball’s flight up into the South Stand.
But it’s not just that staunchness that engenders self-belief – essential to any cricket player to achieve his best. It seems to me it’s the division of labour in this team that means when they are at their best -- something coach Hesson, captain McCullum and assistant coaches Bond and MacMillan have so brilliantly helped make happen almost every game in this tournament – that the skills of every player complements every other player.
MCullum can take risks knocking the top off a run chase, making it less scary for batsmen who follow in his wake, secure in the knowledge there is batting depth to come of his risky hitting doesn’t pay off. Guptill and Williamson can accumulate masterfully, holding up a run-scoring end even if the other is a revolving door. Taylor, Anderson, Elliot, Ronchi and Vettori can pull irons out the fire, even if (as they were last night) faced with the team’s best four batsmen sitting in the shed and a significant mountain to climb.
It’s the same story in the bowling line-up, with speed complementing left-right swing complementing spin meaning for once we have an attack that can actually take wickets (and when have we been able to say that about a NZ team!), and with these gun performers no need for the dibbly-dobblers of old.
It’s not just depth, which this team has in spades, it’s complementary talents being expertly employed.
It’s a champion team led by a champion that every one of them wants to follow.
I’m looking forward, with hope in my heart, to them beating whichever team of champions they face in Melbourne on Sunday.
If it’s anything like the monumental semi-final we watched through our fingers last night, it will be one that’s never forgotten.
PS: Just how good does this look:
… and this…
… and this…
… and, ahem, this:
- Alan Donald revisits Heartbreak 1999 – CRIC BUZZ
1. Rumours he was white-bating earlier in the week have already been discounted, but not extinguished.