London: England captain Eoin Morgan paid tribute to former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum ahead of his side's World Cup final against the Blackcaps at Lord's on Sunday.
Four years ago, a New Zealand side led by McCullum shot out England for just 123 in a World Cup group match and then overhauled that total in a mere 12.2 overs, leaving Morgan feeling as "close to rock bottom as I've been."
New Zealand went on to finish runners-up to co-hosts Australia while England crashed out in the group stage. McCullum has since retired from international duty and now Morgan finds himself leading England against New Zealand in the World Cup final.
Morgan has long acknowledged England's debt to New Zealand for their one-day international revival and, speaking to reporters at Lord's on Saturday, he had warm words for McCullum. "We are close mates," he said. "He's taught me a lot about leadership. He proved you can get to the highest level by being yourselves."
England, like New Zealand, have never won the World Cup, with the last of their three losing appearances in the final back in 1992. "It means a huge amount to me and everyone in the changing room, it's the culmination of four years' hard work," said Morgan.
"It's an opportunity to sell this great game. We're very excited and we'll enjoy the game regardless." England played close to the perfect game in defeating reigning champions Australia in a lopsided semi-final at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Asked if they would need to hit similar heights against a New Zealand team who upset the odds to beat India by 18 runs in their last-four clash, Morgan replied: "I think we will, New Zealand were the best team in the group stage."
Back-to-back group-stage defeats by Sri Lanka and Australia effectively left England playing knockout cricket before the semi-finals but they got their campaign back on track with impressive group-wins over India and New Zealand, who they overwhelmed by 119 runs at Durham's Chester-le-Street headquarters.
"Playing knockout cricket, has helped us," said Morgan. "We were in the last chance saloon in Durham." But Morgan said he had not thought about what it would mean to win the World Cup.
"I haven't allowed myself to think about lifting the trophy. If you get ahead of this game it can bite you on the backside."
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