Delhi – India

A year before the retirement of their king, the Black Caps seemed to have conquered insuperable odds and oddities in a fight to the death to go beyond where no Black Cap had ever gone before: to a World Cup final.

Since 1975 they have been battling this curse that had engulfed their land into darkness and the population in to despair. Many a Black Cap supporter had sailed to the ‘Dying Lands’ without ever witnessing this success.

The return of the king, brought forth hope. Hope that one day the curse will be defeated and darkness lifted. After a 40 year struggle where many a leader was felled and some periods of treachery were uncovered they finally had an army strong of character and skill to face this evil.

And faced the evil they did, with great courage, winning every battle and ever so slowly getting closer to the end. On the 24th day of Autumn in the park of Eden the Black Caps felled another general to make their way to a final. Towns and villages were overjoyed, they celebrated to the wee hours of the night. Even though the war had just begun, defeating the curse for even a few days felt like an eternity of suffering had ended. However, little did they know that eternal suffering had it’s own scheme & devious plan. The final War was waged across the seas, in the land of the Cons. Whether it was nerves or whether it was inexperience, whatever it was they were quite beaten. And the marching Cons, with and their green and gold lifted the trophy for the world to behold.

Twelve moons on, almost to the day
When the Black Caps least expected
The curse that they thought they had defeated
Rose again from the ashes, like a Nazgûl, full of darkness
It paralysed their will, defeated their courage
And left them heart broken in the fields of the Shah
Now as they make their way back home
They can keep their heads high
for evil and curses, they may come and go
But the courage of men, keeps living on….

Vikus Vandersmurf is a Connoisseur of Cricket and an occasional dabbler in poetry… 

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As Sri Lankan cricket struggles with the demands of the international game, a true legend and pioneering innovator said his farewells and hung his Black Cap. His leadership and brand of cricket fascinated and rallied the world behind New Zealand and there’s a lot Sri Lankan cricket can learn from it.

Gimli: Then it has all been in vain. The fellowship has failed.

Aragorn: Not if we hold true to each other.

They say after defeat comes redemption, riches and glory. This has not always been true, the loss of everything doesn’t make the recovery any easier. But sometimes even the gravest of defeats has a way of delivering a savoir, a champion, a king.“Men? Men are weak. The Blood of Numenor is all but spent, its pride and dignity forgotten. I was there three thousand years ago. I was there the day the strength of Men failed”

In December 2012 after a short period of utter turmoil a hastily organized press-conference announced Brendon McCullum as the new Black Caps captain. The hard hitting Otagan inherited a legacy of what ifs, a band of misfits showing glimpses of brilliance but falling short nonetheless. Their bullying big brother almost laughed at the selection, where be his tactical acumen to lead? they laughed. There was no strength left in the world of Black Caps. They were scattered, divided and almost leaderless.

The journey was almost impossible. The route to the top was marred by treacherous wickets, general’s marshalling far greater armies full of seasoned warriors, bludgeoning champions and wily magicians. Each path was full of many an obstacles they had to overcome. The funny thing is sometimes it’s not how strong your army is, how skilled your warriors are or how familiar you are with the territory that matters. Sometimes what makes a difference is how much you believe. How much you believe that you are capable of defying feats, that no obstacle is beyond your conquering and if you fight, true to your heart, even the greatest of enemies can be felled. This is what Brendon McCullum has brought to the Black Caps.

Firstly he united a failing group. There is a saying in the Caribbean “10 guys is not a team, it’s a gang’. BMac was the 11th that managed to turn this gang into a cohesive unit. And not only his teammates but also the coaching & support staff bought into his vision with new found enthusiasm. Maybe it was his relaxed yet authoritative nature, maybe it was his tough but understanding features, but there was no doubt everyone wanted to follow him. He challenged the common down under view of, to be aggressive you need to be inhuman. That, only through a mongrel like abusive approach can you unsettle the opponent. The approach that you need to do whatever to get in the opponent’s head. Ian Chappell has often said a well played forward defensive stroke shows great intent to the bowler as much as a caressed drive through the covers. And that is exactly what BMac brought to the Black caps cricket.

Make no mistake, their bowling was aggressive. It was precise and it was fast. Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan, Matt Henry and Adam Milne all hit the right lengths and made the batsman jump. But with every little bit of chin music, toe crushers or dance move balls they let rip, they bonded with the opposition on a different level. The batsman never really hated them. It was more of a duel of will, a tussle of skill and a dance of expression than a barrage of abuse. They would have staring contests but unlike the Aussie version of ‘F*** you’ yelled by Waugh to Ambrose this was a more “I’ll get you next time ol’ fruity” or “aha well played ol’ chap well played”. After the tragic death of Phil Hughes to a bouncer, the Black Caps under BMac’s guidance as a sign of respect bowled an entire innings at Pakistan without a single bouncer, even if it meant they lost the upper hand. Contrastingly in the first match after the death, Mitchell Johnson bowled one that hit Virat Kohli on the head, Mitch then preceded to have a cry for a bit. Such is the differing nature he brought to the Black caps.

They showed great aggression in the way they fielded. BMac’s mantra of never stop chasing the ball left fans at awe. BMac while being the oldest member of the team led with great example, often sprinting after the ball, diving left right and center and even taking the helmet at short leg a couple of times. The fans loved this and wanted to see more. During their successful but failed world cup campaign they manage to win the hearts of cricketing fans around the world, albeit a few kangaroos from across the Tasman. Bmac single handedly managed to turn the black Caps in to a well oiled professional machine  playing with pride and showing a lot of heart while winning a lot of them around the world.

In his very first test as captain, the Black caps were blown away for 45 by a marching South Africa and in the 2nd they were bowled out for 121. Even with a rear guard action they lost both tests by an innings. But in the ODI series that followed they had the upper hand by 2-1. The next home series against England they fared a bit better as but in the return leg back in England they were once again humbled by an on song Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann. 2 drawn test series against Bangladesh and West Indies and a test series win against India were followed by Bmac being crowned the first Kiwi to hit a test triple hundred. What followed suit was the golden era of Kiwi cricket. They had their best year in test cricket, and in early 2015 they had their best showing in an ICC world cup making the final before going down to their cross Tasman rivals. During this period young Kane Williamson also emerged as a force world in cricket and was dubbed to be the greatest batsman Black caps would ever produce.

All of his efforts in bringing this new brand of cricket culminated into one special moment when he won the ICC’s Spirit of the Cricket for the year 2015. And true BMac style he shared the victory with everyone saying “This award is much the team and staff’s as much as it is mine, for I wouldn’t have won it if they didn’t buy into this new culture”.

It’s no secret that since the retirements of Mahela & Sanga Sri Lankan cricket hasn’t been it’s swashbuckling best. There are a lot of glimpses of genius, rare raw talent but for most part, as a close friend put in, some don’t look like they ever belong there. Nevertheless BMac’s career, drive, leadership and character can teach a lot not just to our emerging talent, but also to the core senior group. At the age of 34 he stepped down and retired from the game at a time when the urge to play one more T20 world cup would have been extremely high. He always led from the front & and by example, he never expected his team mates to do something that he wouldn’t. There were instances in tests where he would take the helmet under short leg, a position normally reserved the team newbie. He was tougher than tough, put his body in line even when a Mitch Johnson thunderbolt nearly burst through his arm. He trained the hardest, set the standard for everyone to follow but never put anyone down for falling. He was always calm, gentle but authoritative and decisive. But above all he was an entertainer for the ages, who risked dying by the sword if it meant his team would come on top

As  international cricket farewells this juggernaut of a batsman and a Leonidas of a leader. Thankfully T20 cricket will let us, fans enjoy his presence for a bit longer.

Vikus Vandersmurf is a Connoisseur of Cricket

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Except really really unfair D/L calculations.

Vettorri is a strange little creature.

He is the equivalent of that bits and pieces player you pick for your backyard game. He’s the quiet sort, not everyone’s first pick but you know you get some decent overs out of him and he can bat right or left handed if you asked him to.

Dan’s of course done one better. He is captain of the 8th state of Australia. You may have heard of it. Some people call it New Zealand.

The reason Dan leads this rag tag team of pretend cricketers is because he is the best in the world at this type of cricket.  If you can call it that. But he has mastered the art of looking weird and awkward but still being able to get runs and take wickets.

He does this despite being the only Half-Blood in world cricket. A Half-blood being a wizard born to a human and wizard parents.  This is in no way a peragotory term.  Because yesterday I was wishing I was just a little like Dan. Minus the specs.

Everyone knows that NZ only care about ODIs against Australia.  And yesterday Vettori just would not give in.  In the midst of it all he forgot where his off stump was. Sometimes thinking its 5 feet outside off and sometimes thinking its 10 to the leg. None of his shots reminded me of Mark Waugh but he got old hairy arms  pretty worried. With good reason.

The only way Vettoris romp was going to be stopped was if two English statisticians devised a formula that would make the Kiwi target very unfair – whilst also managing to confuse everyone else. Which is of course exactly what happened.

How Australia got their full 5 overs of batting power play and NZ did not is pretty fucked up. If that hadn’t happened we would have seen Vettori all gangly and awkward, reverse sweeping Ryan Harris for 6 from 10 feet outside leg stump.

Damn the English. Damn you to hell.

new zealand vettori

Some of you may know that T.M. Dilshan graced New Zealand with his presence recently. He came over, got flown around in his own helicopter, was waited on hand and foot and I’m pretty sure there was a street parade for him somewhere where a gold statue of him was unveiled.

He then showed the crowd the bling around his neck and made them all feel inadequate.

He was pretty much the biggest celebrity to hang out in New Zealand since the Flight of the Conchords realised they were actually good and left to a country where there are more people than sheep.

He made a token fifty. And I hear he played the Dilscoop once. It went for six. People cried because it was beautiful. It was like the ending of Princess Diaries 2.
He hasn’t done much else though. He’s playing in the New Zealand domestic tournament for Dan Vettori’s team. When they bat together I fantasise about them getting married and starting a family. Their children would be amazing.

But he hasn’t played the last two games, so I’m guessing he isn’t here anymore. I’m not sure what kind of trouble he got into with the ICC that he had to serve 2 weeks of community service here, but damn did we enjoy it.

Plus the fact that people actually went along to watch some of his games means that NZ Cricket have a little money now. Maybe they can get Scott Styris a new face.

andrew fernando dilshan flyslip new zealand vettori

It wont be easy but there might be a slim chance.

Openers– Vital, who ever plays in this spot,  if the kiwis fail again in getting a good start,I think the battle is already half lost. It sets the tune for the rest of the batting lineup. Honestly speaking if they keep out Johnson I think they will have no real trouble in scoring runs against Lee and the rest if they see out the new ball.

Vettori– Needs to step up his bowling duties. He usually does well in Australia andI think he can afford to bring himself on a bit earlier than he did in the first test. The Australian middle order are always suspect against decent spin, so it’s a good idea to test them out early rather than letting them settle down against the medium pacers.

Make every chance count– Simon Katich was dropped on around 80 odd, with the overall lead at 225 or so. If that catch had been taken Australia could have been bowled out for under 250.

Those are the defining moments in a test match. If the kiwis are to win, all these half chances need to converted.

Attack 24×7– no one is going to win a test match in Australia buy sitting back. Vettori needs to ring the changes and keep the team interested at all times. As soon as you let the game drift, Australia will seize the opportunity. Whether they are batting or bowling NZ must make sure they have aggressive intent. Picking up the singles and not getting bogged down like How and Redmond did in both innings. And continously look for scoring opportunities.

I’m always for the underdogs.

So give em hell.

australia jamie how new zealand redmond vettori