powered by

24 March 201504:26 By Anand Vasu

ICC Cricket World Cup Fever takes hold in New Zealand

Ahead of the first semi-final in the land of rugby, all talk is about cover drives and yorkers

ICC Cricket World Cup Fever takes hold in New Zealand - Cricket News

Now is as good a time as any for cricket fans in New Zealand to get behind their team.

Something strange is happening in Middle Earth. Something odd has captured the imagination of those that live in the Land of the Long White Cloud. It’s been a little over a month, and yet, it’s hard to believe such a thing is possible.

In the land of rugby, all talk is about cover drives and yorkers. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 has taken over New Zealand in a manner previously thought impossible.

The front page of the New Zealand Herald ushered in the week with a letter from Brendon McCullum basically giving every Aucklander a carte blanche to leave work and fill up Eden Park for the semifinal against South Africa. This was a call to arms that might have happened with the All Blacks.

But, here was McCullum, leader of the Black Caps, standing tall for cricket was, for once, the talk of his country. While a first appearance in a World Cup final, and then a shot at ultimate glory, was what every New Zealand fan was after, what the tournament has done for the country was unmistakable. Sample what the journey from Wellington -- where New Zealand comfortably got past the West Indies – to Auckland, was like.

Here come the Black Caps.
It was a seven year old who set things off at Departure Gate 16 at the Wellington Airport. Fresh off their win against West Indies, charging towards a collision with South Africa in the semifinal of the World Cup, New Zealand’s cricketers trickled towards the aircraft that would take them upward and onward. While New Zealand’s finest were not exactly mobbed – the people of this country are far too polite to do that, irrespective of how much they love sport – their walk through the terminal was certainly not untrammelled.

One photo, Vettori sir? One photo, Vettori sir?
It was an Indian tourist, furled tricolour sticking out of a backpack, having done duty at the last match and being stowed away till next needed, at least 20 years Daniel Vettori’s senior, who opened the floodgates. Once the New Zealand player stopped long enough to pose, his smile a mixture of bemusement and bashful acceptance at his current standing, there was no stopping the other Indians, and Indian-origin New Zealanders, in the vicinity from each demanding a photo that would end up on Facebook in a moment.

In New Zealand, we still trust people, sir.
It was the Air New Zealand staffer at the gate, slightly harried at the fact that there were 194 people trying to get on a plane that could hold 177, each standby passenger hoping earnestly that there would be enough no-shows to let him on, who kept things moving. It was this hard working staffer, whose response came when someone proffered a passport to confirm that he was indeed the person whose name was on the boarding pass, who kept things normal, not breaking stride, or reacting in the slightest, when Trent Boult, on top of the tournament charts with 19 scalps, walked up, guitar casually slung over his shoulder.

Have you seen this one, mate? Really?
It was a member of the New Zealand team’s support staff that held the door ajar for the good-natured ribbing to begin, pulling up one of the many morphed photos of Vettori that are doing the rounds on the Internet. Here’s Vettori attempting a slam-dunk in the all-star challenge. Here’s Vettori dwarfing the Statue of Liberty, white Kookaburra in hand. Here’s Vettori, floating beside the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. Vettori laughed with his mates, not one of who expected him to take that catch, irrespective of what they might say.

Cup of tea would be great, thank you.
It was Brendon McCullum, that powerhouse of a batsman who has suddenly and dramatically revealed himself as a leader of men capable of inspiring his wards to ride to war with him – not unlike the bearded Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings motifs so ubiquitous in this part of the world – who was the centre of attention in the New Zealand pack. Seated bang in the middle of their public, tall men squeezed into cattle class seating, New Zealand’s cricketers did not hide behind opaque shades or oversized headphones. McCullum, on his knees on his seat, elbows propped up on the headrest, chatted away, as a teenager might on an excursion his school had organised.

Can we have three cheers for New Zealand? Hip … Hip …
It was an Indian who broke ranks, and indeed perhaps every unwritten flying etiquette in the Land of the Long White Cloud, for a Kiwi would have referred to his cricket team as the Black Caps, and brought embarrassed smiles to the faces of cricketers who have spent a lifetime walking the streets of Auckland or Christchurch unrecognised, and certainly unapproached. When a planeload load of passengers yelled out ‘Hurray!’ the atmosphere was distinctly carnival, even if the men in the middle of it all were not sure exactly what the fuss was all about.

Best of luck to the Black Caps for the final. We know you’ll be there.
It was the pilot of flight NZ 448, sensibly forgoing the rather pointless details about how high the plane was flying or what the temperature was outside at that very instant, choosing instead to follow the cheering and applause he heard from the cabin with a remark that was typical of the cheeky New Zealand sense of humour. In the rare moments when New Zealanders aren’t laughing at themselves in the coolest possible manner, they come up with absolute gems. Obviously, the man at the flight deck did not believe the Black Caps needed any luck for the semifinal.

Are you here for the cricket? Is the World Cup still on?
It was a middle-aged woman sneaking a cigarette outside the arrival gate of the Auckland airport, who picked an unfortunate member of the New Zealand team to ask this question to. Not batting an eyelid, the young man replied that there were still a few games to be played yet, upon which the kindly lady rather redundantly informed him that she did not really follow cricket. It was quintessentially New Zealand: a reminder at every turn that this is Rugby Country, even when the Black Caps are on the rampage; and the response from the player equally so, not the slightest petulance at not being recognised despite kit clearly identifying who he was.

Here come the Black Caps.
It isn’t a slogan, but it should be. New Zealand’s cricketers do not announce themselves before a game like the All Blacks do – remember Vettori’s crack about how skinny white men don’t do the Haka? – but there’s no reason why Auckland’s cricket faithful, who will no doubt pack Eden Park, should not come together to give South Africa a rousing welcome. There hasn’t been a cricket World Cup semifinal in New Zealand in 23 years, and who knows when the next one might be? Now is as good a time as any for cricket fans in this New Zealand to get behind their team, and sound the warning: Here come the Black Caps.