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.
The signs aren’t good. In the 2019 World Cup semi-final, New Zealand laid bare India’s unbalanced batting line-up. WTC was lost as Williamson understood the pitch and conditions better than Kohli. On Sunday again, India will be taking the field with an uncovered wound and unattended problems. Who bats at No.7? Who will be the sixth bowler? Should it be Hardik or will they go for Shardul?
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.
Devendra Pandey raised a couple of auction-day red flags. Both relating to conflict of interest – Sourav Ganguly’s stake in a football club and CVC Capital’s association with the betting industry.
And, finally, the story of the week. The one that triggers conversations and tugs at the heart. A mother returned home with a deep cut on the cheek and her two tiny tots and husband celebrated. This seemingly unlikely scenario is a routine affair at the home of Meena Rani, the national champion boxer and mother of two.
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