Cricket. It’s never been on such a high in this country. And boy are we excited.
In 1992 when the Cricket World Cup was last here I fell in love for the first time. I was only 7 or 8 but suddenly cricket stole my heart. The ups and downs, exciting and boring parts, bits where you had to work and bits where it was just so easy, it was all a metaphor for a marriage. And I was married. Hard.
And so I’ve been a die-hard New Zealand cricket fan ever since. I have weathered the awful performances (I still maintain that the early-mid-nineties were our darkest hours, Blairs Pocock and Hartland were terrible opening batsman). I’ve been there for the false dawns (everyone goes on about the 1999 side, but to me it was filled with journeymen who never quite reached these levels).
The class of 2014/15 is easily the best team I have ever seen (read Ali Ikram’s far more eloquent piece for more on how the game has changed).
So after my own club game was cancelled today, I thought I’d sit down and do a comparison of the Blackcaps vs the Australian team for tomorrow’s grand finale.
You can’t really separate openers as they both do the same job, so let’s look at them as a whole. Both Aussie batsman – Finch and Warner – are supposed to be ‘dashers’, that is aggressive opening batsman. However neither have consistently fired this tournament. Both have hundreds, but also both have had off days. Warner is also the biggest asshole in world cricket. Whereas on our side McCullum is all or nothing, and it’s largely been all, while ol’ two-toes has really kicked up a gear since everyone viewed him as a walking wicket (237 aside, he’s had a great tournament). This is clear cut advantage NZ.
Kane Williamson vs Steven Smith
This is a tricky one. Everyone has been going on about how Kane Williamson is going to be the best batsman we’ve ever had and that’s likely to be true. Everyone has also gotten very excited by the six he hit off Mitchell Starc to win us the game and that’s also very true, but good lord Steven Smith is in some form. If it was a contest of original names then Kane would destroy Smith but it’s not, and Smith’s form this summer has been out of this world. Slight advantage Australia.
Michael Clarke vs Ross Taylor
Clarke. By a mile. Taylor seems to be in weird space mentally. He is scoring runs, but at a woeful rate, and he seems disengaged. Clear cut advantage Australia.
Grant Elliott vs Shane Watson
Shane Watson is the second least likeable player in world cricket, but I’m trying not to let personality sway me here. I’d take Elliot. The last man to be picked in the squad, the guy who was subject to ridicule for his inclusion has been a revelation. Everyone talks about “old man Vettori”, but no-one has said the same of Grant even though he’s also 36. His calm batting in the middle has saved us a few times, and he can also belt the crap out of the ball (he took the world’s best bowler for six back over mid-on when we needed 5 to win!). Watson is also the player that Australians want out of their team. And if their parochialism can’t even make them warm to Watson then mate, you’re toast. Clear cut advantage New Zealand.
Corey Anderson vs Glenn Maxwell
This is a tight one. Maxwell, also unlikeable, is a talented guy. And he can hit the ball a very long way. But then so can Corey. Maxwell has more runs than Anderson at this tournament but that could be down to Australia’s top order not performing as well as New Zealand’s. I think I’d be inclined to go with Anderson here because of his bowling. He’s a genuine fourth bowler whereas Maxwell is fifth at best. And woeful. Slight advantage New Zealand.
Luke Ronchi vs Brad Haddin
Before this world cup started I would have had Ronchi no question, he’s a better keeper than Haddin and he was in some supreme batting form. However a paucity of chances at the crease has meant that his form has dipped, while Haddin is kind of the glue that holds the Aussie middle-lower order together. So I’m going to have to give advantage Australia.
James Faulkner vs Dan Vettori
Australia has decided they don’t need a spinner this tournament so I guess this is the comparison to be made. For me it’s Vettori comfortably here. Faulkner can slog the shit out of the ball, however since injuring himself pre-world cup he hasn’t looked the same. And his bowling is 5th bowler at best. While Vettori continues to baffle me that he’s still going. He will tie up an end, get wickets, and deliver unbelievable one handed catches in the outfield. The man is immense. And removing the burden of captaincy and putting him in a team with other bowlers who can take wickets seems to have made him reborn. Clear cut advantage New Zealand.
Matt Henry vs Mitchell Johnson
I’ve got Henry vs Johnson as Johnson’s rightful place is as first change bowler. If MJ was squaring up against either of our opening bowlers I’d have both Kiwis MILES ahead of him. For this one, based on experience and the extra batting that Johnson brings I’ll have to go with him. That said, he hasn’t been bowling that well this tournament. And it seems that he fires up best against England and South Africa. Other teams haven’t found him so fearful. However, you’d still take him ahead of Matt Henry who is still finding his feet at the international stage. Advantage Australia.
Tim Southee vs Josh Hazlewood
I actually know very little about Josh Hazlewood. His middle name is Reginald which is kind of amazing. He’s got marginally fewer wickets than Southee this tournament, and he’s not a bowler who you go “ooh geez Hazlewood is coming on. Look out!”. On that basis Southee gets the nod, because on his day that guy can bowl some unplayable deliveries. However since his ridiculous performance against England it’s felt like he’s been trying to get wickets every ball instead of just bowling to a plan. So slight advantage to New Zealand.
Trent Boult vs Mitchell Starc
Are you fucking kidding me? I can’t even begin to separate these two. This is a tie. Ideally I’d have both of them in the team but as both are left-arm openers it’s only fair that they go up against each other in this head to head.
If we look at the final tally we see that New Zealand has the barest of advantages. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to win. Because I’m a wee bit nervous that we’ve never been to a final before. So this could mean a) that we played our final in the semi and that b) we haven’t got the big match experience which I think does count for a lot.
That said, good lord we’re a good team and if each player delivers on their potential I reckon we could do this.
If I got to choose a team from both XIs, it would look like this:
That’s a fucking good team.
Dream big New Zealand.