263. Banana Skins

In the Cricket World Cup, at Dunedin

New Zealand (146/7 in 24.2 overs) beat Scotland (142/10 in 36.2 overs) by three wickets

One of the points of a world cup is that developing teams have a chance to test themselves against the big guns during the pool stages. These are the “banana skin” games for the favoured teams, when they can slip and look stupid. Think of Tonga beating France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Or Ireland beating Pakistan at the Cricket World Cup in 2007, and England in 2011, and the West Indies on Monday.

Thankfully the Black Caps avoided their own banana skin on Tuesday in Dunedin, but not before we all had a sharp intake of breath.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson reckons we all need to take a chill pill after the Black Caps’ “untidy” batting effort to run down Scotland. His argument is that “It’s crucial where we finish [in the pool] to ensure we rank high for the quarter-finals”, so getting to the target in fewer overs was crucial for a better run rate. Never mind losing wickets.

I beg to differ.

Not, I hasten to add, because I know more about cricket than Mr Hesson. I don’t.

But, as I have said many times before, I was in Cardiff on 6 October 2007. That was the day that the All Blacks got ahead of themselves and didn’t play the French team that was in front of them. As a result, we all got to go home early and Lord Ted had to sit on the naughty step until 23 October 2011.

Tournament competitions are different from league competitions. To win a tournament, you are going to have to go through the knockout stages unbeaten. Get your head around that brutal fact early on and never deviate.

Quarter-final, semi-final, grand final: you’ll have to beat who ever is in front of you on the day. Don’t kid yourself that there is an “easier” route through those three games. There isn’t. Every team in the last eight/four/two has a chance if they play to their potential and the other side doesn’t.

That being the case, play with the right mindset all the way through the pool stage. It’s good practice.

Seven New Zealand batsmen in Dunedin did not play what was in front of them. They played thinking about some hypothetical future game. There’s the worry.

There’s the hint of a smell of a suggestion that there’s a nagging doubt in the backs of their minds about their real objective in this tournament. That simply being in a semi, or maybe the final, will be “good enough”.

Uh uh. Focus on the prize. Believe in your own ability to go all the way against any opponent. Focus only on what is in front of you.


About Ned Davy

By hokey, the big fella’s tipped into his 50s. A rangy loose forward in his prime, good with the ball in hand, but rarely up with the play any more.
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5 Responses to 263. Banana Skins

  1. Mike says:

    For those of us with semi-final tickets for Auckland group platings are crucial. If we end up facing Straya in the semi its location will be decided on pool placing.

    • Ned Davy says:

      Ah, a good point, for those kiwis who would like to have a home semi. Not just the kiwi fans, but also I’d agree the Black Caps themselves if they have to boof the Aussies.

      However, the likelihood of facing the Aussies in the semis is a) low and b) hard for us to shape at this point of pool play.

      We will face the Aussies in the semis (assuming both get through the quarters) if, and only if, one of us finishes 1st and the other 3rd, or one finishes 2nd and the other 4th, in the pool. There are 12 possible outcomes of our respective standings in the pool (assuming we are both in the top four), of which four give that problematic combination. Two of the outcomes, of course, would have NZL finishing above the Ockers, and it becomes a moot point. So in effect there are 2 outcomes where our semi would be in Australia, and 10 outcomes where the semi would be in Auckland.

      My final point is that the pool rankings are probably going to be settled by the last matches we play (NZL vs Bangladesh on 13 March, and AUS vs Scotland on 14 March). We can fiddle around all we like at this stage, but it is Australia who will have the final say on Net Run Rate. Yes they will want to manage it so they would have a home semi – if that is a live possibility at that stage. But they’ll be the ones slipping and sliding on how fast or slow to go against the Scots.

      The good news is that you’ve got great odds (10 out of 12) of seeing NZL in a home semi, so long as they are in the top four of Pool A, and so long as they win their quarter-final.

      Play what is in front of you.

  2. Mike says:

    A few other thoughts:
    1. The last few NZ wickets to fall were mainly catches on the boundary trying to get it over with. As a member of the Uni Oval crowd beginning to feel the effects of sunstroke (I gather quite common in Dunedin – a dedicated hospital ward no less) I wasn’t averse to this approach and was keen to adjourn to a leafy garden for some of the sponsor’s product.
    2. The scots bowlers seemed to be bowling well for which credit should be granted. They also, in my opinion, had an unfair advantage in that they could basically bowl their quicks all out as there was the 40min lunch break straight after their first spells (a peculiar situation, no doubt driven by broadcast schedules).

    • Ned Davy says:

      Good points, to which I say:
      1: Play what’s in front of you applies at the micro as well as the macro level. Our blokes got caught on the boundary because they didn’t play the single ball in front of them well enough.
      2: Ah, the dead hand of television networks’ commercial interests strikes again. I agree, the Scots deserve a lot of credit for playing a bad hand well, but they got a slight help from the tournament rules that gave them a haggis break.

  3. BrotherPhil says:

    Exactly – as my old coach said: there is only one reason to enter the competition, and that is to win. If the others in the race are trying to see if they can measure up your job is to show them how bad they really are.

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