Apr 122014

Fairfax Media talks to the coach who oversaw New Zealand’s 1992 World Cup campaign and asks if the current Black Caps can achieve what all others have failed to do.

Our current Black Caps team has the best chance of winning a world cup since 1992 – if players can mentally steel themselves and deal with the pressure – so says the coach of the only side to come close.

A New Zealand cricket team has never made a final of a Cricket World Cup and always struggles at the sharp end of a tournament.

The World T20 tournament just gone saw the Black Caps fail to make it out of pool play after losing to South Africa and Sri Lanka.

At the last one-day world cup, hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, New Zealand made it to the semifinals, where they were beaten by Sri Lanka. In 2007, they made it the semifinals, to be beaten by, you guessed it, Sri Lanka. In 2003 they failed to progress past the “super sixes ” (as it was then). You get the picture.

So back to 1992, when we actually had a chance, but instead Pakistan and England went through to the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with Pakistan winning.

Warren Lees, who coached the highly fancied 1992 side, said players, and management, succumbed to mental pressure.

“We let the occasion, the opportunity, the once-in-a-lifetime thoughts get to us.” Lees said the team let the loss of batsman Martin Crowe, who did not play because of a torn hamstring, stun them and they could not recover.

“When it came to the semifinal we looked to [Crowe] because he had been a very special player and then of course he got injured. But because we had put him on such a pedestal we were a bit stunned, we were possums in the headlights.” Lees said he thought the current Black Caps team had got past relying on one player and should enjoy a “huge advantage” playing at home.

If the Black Caps play well they should get to play their later stage games at home. The world cup quarterfinal venues will be determined after pool play.

If the Black Caps qualify they will play their quarterfinal at Wellington. Australia will play theirs at Adelaide. Other quarterfinals will be assigned to venues based on the travel times and rest days of the teams involved.

Semifinals work the same. Australia and New Zealand will play at home if they qualify. However, should they face each other (which can’t happen in the quarters because they’re in the same group) the home advantage goes to the side who finishes higher in pool play.

Lees, who was interim coach of the White Ferns this summer, said the public would be the biggest asset to the Black Caps. His players rode a wave of public optimism.

“Wherever we went, if we went into a dairy, walking down the street, we could feel the whole country was behind us,” he said.

“New Zealanders are very quick to get behind winning teams, they are also very quick to turn on losing teams, so the current guys will have a huge advantage if they start well.

“This team, they are as close as they can get to being the right team to win the tournament.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

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