What is so uniquely Kiwi? They expose your weakness, they make you look underprepared, they deny you glory on the biggest stage but still don’t get treated as enemies.
Let’s start from 2019. That was when Kane Williamson didn’t allow the odds-on favourite India to reach the ODI World Cup final. Next year, 2020, India travels all the way to the far-off island, only to return as losers. More recently, 2021, cricket’s likeable Little People stopped Virat Kohli & Co from being the winner of the inaugural World Test Championship. 3 years, 3 heart-breaking defeats and 300 reasons for New Zealand to face the ire of a billion.
But does Williamson get targeted by the Bharat Army at stadiums? Does he get booed when he turns up for SRH? Is he on the hit-list of those obnoxious trolls? Do we even give New Zealand those cliched titles like arch rivals, nemesis or bogey team? No, none of the above.
They remain the world’s second-favourite team. For the present bunch of Indian cricketers, it’s a team that they think they can beat but invariably get beaten by.
New Zealand’s biggest strength is their ability to underplay their strength. Even in their most overwhelming win, they remain graceful. The chivalry not allowing the rivals to get riled up and vouch revenge. Their understated, almost apologetic, march to the finish line makes the trailing group feel they were always in the contest and it was just a bad day in office which impacted the result.
So here we are again facing the dangerously deceptive foe again. India, exhausted and drained after the Pakistan defeat, are now waking up to the fact that they play New Zealand in another high-stake game. Sunday the two play a virtual quarter-final, a game where India, like in the past, will desperately try to not get exposed and avoid another big in an ICC event.
Shamik Chakrabarty, diligently following India in UAE, has the answers.
While India chased the silverware on the field, elsewhere the BCCI struck gold. The addition of two new teams to the IPL and the eye-watering auction bids pointed to cricket’s changing ecosystem. The expansion will result in a longer tournament that will eat into the international itinerary of teams. With T20 becoming more profitable for both officials and players, other formats will suffer. Tests might still survive but the other older and longer white-ball format, the ODIs, might fade away.
Old wounds, deep cuts and a team that kills with kindness that’s the week gone by in a nutshell. Send feedback and keep reading.
National Sports Editor
The Indian Express