In knock-out matches or finals, Australia have won 16 in a row against New Zealand.
Last night I was chatting to one of my cousins who used to be a high-level cricket player. I asked him if he was going to come round early in the morning to watch the T20 World Cup final with me. His reply was concise and emphatic. "I don't think so, I've been burned by Australia before."
It's a feeling that Every New Zealand cricket fan knows. Our team looks good, up until we play Australia.
It isn't true that New Zealand have never beaten Australia in a final. But the one time that we did it was so long ago that Dougy Walters was playing for Australia and Martin Crowe still hadn't made his debut for New Zealand.
Since then there have been a litany of failures. In knock-out matches or finals, Australia have won 16 in a row against New Zealand. And they have mostly followed the same pattern.
Either Australia have put New Zealand in to bat, or New Zealand have chosen it. Australia have taken early wickets before New Zealand have rebuilt. But ultimately New Zealand haven't scored enough, and Australia have knocked off the runs fairly easily.
It's a depressingly familiar pattern that was repeated again this match.
Australia are the worst team to lose to.
Other teams fans will celebrate the win. Australian friends will call me and tell me jokes about New Zealand wearing the silver fern, and Australia being green and gold, and the gold and silver meaning something. There’s nothing worse than losing to Australia. Except losing a final to them.
And unfortunately, it has now happened 16 times in a row.
Some of the time it has been because Australia have had better teams than New Zealand. Making the finals has normally meant that New Zealand have done about as well as could be expected, given their quality. But that hasn't always been the case. The current New Zealand players are at least as good as their trans-Tasman counterparts.
One possible suggestion is that New Zealand are too nice. This works well against most teams. The friendly atmosphere on the field seems to almost mesmerise other teams into a state where they are unable to give their best. The Australians, however, seem to take it as a sign of weakness, and they go into bully mode. Ever since India started standing up to the Australians and giving back at least as good as they got, India have had a very good record against Australia.
Looking back at the New Zealand teams that have been successful against Australia, this holds true.
I heard a story about the 1992 world cup team that they were on the same train as the Australians heading from a promotional photoshoot. The coach, Warren Lees, got the team to line up, and walk past the Australians, staring at each of them and not saying a word. This unexpected aggressiveness seemed to shake the Australians up, and New Zealand beat them in the opening match of that World Cup.
A couple of years later, New Zealand were in Australia for a tri-series. Most of the New Zealand players were not going quite so well, but Chris Pringle stood up and really dominated the Australian team. At the time around all of the grounds, there were billboards advertising the Arnold Schwartzenegger film Predator. In the advertisement, Schwartzenegger had war paint on his face. Pringle matched that pattern with his zinc sunscreen, and went out to war. He was not going to take a backward step.
Stephen Fleming’s side also had some success against Australia. That was particularly true when Dion Nash was in the side. Nash was at his best when he was angry, and there are stories that Fleming used to do things to get him annoyed so that he would go and take it out on the Australians. Scott Styris was another player who had success against Australia, and again he was an abrasive personality.
Brendon McCullum talked about playing the game like New Zealanders, not like Australians. Part of the success that New Zealand have had has been down to playing with authenticity. But I would rather that we dropped that against Australia.
The All Blacks are not known as the nice guys of rugby. They’re known for playing hard and winning. The New Zealand sailors are not known for being nice. They’re known for taking every possible advantage and being very hard to beat. It is possible to be authentically Kiwi, and not be a walkover.
And yet, this Blackcaps team certainly have not been a walkover, to everyone except Australia, that is. New Zealand have a winning record against every team that they have played more than 10 matches against in the past 5 years. Everyone except for Australia, who have won roughly 3 times as many matches as they’ve lost against New Zealand.
Perhaps the Blackcaps need to become a different side when they play Australia. Put off the New Zealand way of playing, just for that one opposition. Then we can go back to being the nice Kiwi blokes who disarm everyone else.
Michael Wagener is a cricket tragic from New Zealand. He discovered early on that he would never be an expert at playing cricket, so set out to be an expert at watching it.
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