Transcript of New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum's press conference ahead of the semi-final against South Africa on Tuesday.
Q. Brendon, first of all, let's talk about Adam Milne. How big a blow is this for the team on the eve of such an important game?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Yeah, it's obviously disappointing. Adam has been outstanding for us in that third seamer role throughout the tournament. Injuries happen, though, and in the end we've got some good cover amongst the squad, as well. It's really disappointing for Adam but he'll remain part of the squad, which is good, because he's a good team man, as well, good fellow to have around, and it's disappointing his tournament as such has ended, but I'm sure we'll come up with a suitable replacement.
Q. What sort of impact has it had on the team?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Well, it hasn't had a great impact, I guess. I guess it's more for Adam, the realisation that he can't play anymore in the tournament after having such a big hand for us. The team has taken it in its stride. We understand that these injuries are part and parcel of the game we play, but it's just unfortunate for Adam, I guess.
Q. In terms of your final selection for the side then, does like for like come into the thinking of the selection in terms of your bowlers?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Yeah, look, we probably need to have another look at the wicket tomorrow, look at the overhead conditions, as well, and try and factor all those things in. But I think you've seen the way we've operated with Adam in that third seamer role has worked quite well for us coming in after our two opening bowlers swinging the ball; the role that he's been able to play has been very good. It doesn't mean we have to roll out the same game plan or same strategy, but I think it has served us well over the last little while.
Q. Is it your expectation that the pitch is going to be similar to other pitches here at Eden Park, the same?
BRENDON McCULLUM: I don't think it'll be the same as the one against Australia. I think the overhead conditions, as well, it was obviously really humid during that test match, during that game, and we saw some high quality swing bowling. I'm no weather genius, but I think tomorrow is meant to be a little less humid so we probably won't see as much swing. The wicket looks pretty good so far, similar to the practice nets, as well, which is always nice when they marry up together. So yeah, I'd expect it to be a good wicket, and hopefully will be a good contest which unfolds.
Q. How have Kyle and Mitchell reacted to the news today of Adam's omission?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Well, yeah, I guess just like everyone else in the squad, everyone is really disappointed for Milne, but realistically that's the game that we play. When you bowl as fast as what he does, injuries can event wait. Yeah, Mitch and Millsy have just been like everybody else on the squad and just taken it in their stride, I guess.
Q. Compared with the feeling before the quarterfinal, how big or how nervous or how excited is the team for tomorrow?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Yeah, the boys are pretty excited.
Q. Nervous, as well?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Some guys get nervous, yeah. I think any game that you play some guys in your squad get more nervous than others. But I think overall the general feeling is one that we just can't wait to get out there and display our skills, test our skills against a very good South African team and obviously in a crunch game, as well. I think the way we dealt with expectations of the last game and the pressures that had in itself, that should hold us in reasonable stead, as well. But yeah, I think some guys will be more nervous than others, but I think it's fair to say that everyone can't wait to get out there and entertain the crowd.
Q. You seem very relaxed. I think you were asked this question before the first game. How will you sleep tonight? What will you do tonight?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Yeah, I think I should be okay. I sort of find that being too stressed out doesn't help that much, so might as well just relax and look forward to the opportunity to go out there and represent your country again tomorrow in obviously a really big game. It's a great stage to be a part of. It's what you play the game for, all the trainings that you do all the time away from home, all the hard work and sacrifice that you make. This is what you do it for, so we've got that opportunity tomorrow, and yeah, I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Brendon, AB has just spoken about dealing with the crowd here tomorrow. How big an advantage has that been throughout the tournament, especially here against Australia the other day in Wellington, and can you factor that sort of thing into your planning knowing you're going to have 40,000-odd people cheering for you tomorrow?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Can you factor it into your planning? Probably not. But when you're going good, it's great to have the crowd on your side like that, and I think we've seen throughout this tournament how behind our cricket team the public is, and we've had some superb crowds all the way through the tournament. We've seen people turn up and no one will forget the chant of Southee going up around the Cake Tin or even Guptill last time, as well, and the way that the crowd got right in behind Boulty when he was swinging for Australia, as well. They're memories which will live forever. Yeah, it's obviously great to be playing tomorrow's game at home, and hopefully if we can get ourselves in a strong position, then the crowd will enjoy the ride with us, as well.
Q. Just quickly about Martin, as well, he's coming off an extraordinary high with that 237. It's the quickest turnaround you've had between tournaments. Does he seem level?
BRENDON McCULLUM: He does seem really level, and I think that's something that Gup has been working on for the last 12 to 18 months is trying to remain reasonably stable emotionally whether he has a good day or he has a bad day, and I think that's been the catch cry of this team throughout this period, as well, is we understand the game throws up its ups and its downs but you need to be able to remain reasonably level and go about your work. I think the way that Gup was able to back up a really good hundred against Bangladesh and then to be able to turn in such an amazing performance as he did the other day shows that he certainly possesses those characteristics, as well. He's been a huge player for us in this tournament. It suggests that he's probably not quite done yet.
Q. What will your final message to the troops be tomorrow?
BRENDON McCULLUM: That's a good question. It will be no different to every other game, I think. We talk a lot about this being the greatest time of our lives and the trip that we've been on so far has been one that we'll all remember. The game is meant to be fun, go out there, express yourself, enjoy the occasion, put our best foot forward, and we'll see where the cards fall after that.
Q. Given what's happened to Adam Milne today, is there kind of an admission that maybe the lack of rotation during the tournament, that maybe that might have been a wrong call?
BRENDON McCULLUM: No, I don't think so. I think seven from seven is a testament to the strategy that we've rolled out. I think I'll reinforce Mike's message that we're very confident in every member of the squad that we have here, and if Matt gets brought into the squad officially, then we're obviously confident in him, as well. We talked before the tournament, as well, about the guys that sat on the periphery of the squad and how they were unlucky to obviously miss out initially. Matt is one of those guys who now if he does get brought in, then he has the opportunity to come out there and perform, and we'll back him immensely, just as the guys who have been sitting on the sidelines. Whoever it is that gets the nod tomorrow, we've got full confidence that they'll be able to go out there and perform their skills and fit into the game plan appropriately.
Q. The South Africans' mental fragility is well documented but of course New Zealand have never got past the semifinals, as well. Do you think there's a chance of tomorrow's game being defined by failure? Do you think somebody is going to crack out there rather than win it?
BRENDON McCULLUM: No, I don't think so. I think both teams are playing a different brand of cricket than we've probably seen both teams play over the last sort of while. Both teams are playing aggressively, playing an entertaining style of cricket, and both teams are trying to win key moments rather than not lose them. So I think tomorrow will be a great spectacle. I'd expect that the team that is able to handle the crunch situations the best will come out on top, but I would expect that the margin won't be too far between both teams. Should be a great contest and one that certainly everyone is looking forward to, and I guess we'll have one team that has never made it to the final at the end of tomorrow celebrating, and the others will, I guess, take it in their stride.
Q. Just a little more on the South Africans. What have you made of them this World Cup and the challenge they'll present to you tomorrow?
BRENDON McCULLUM: I think they've been really good this World Cup. Obviously Pakistan was a tough game for them, but we know how strong Pakistan are, as well, and how dangerous they are. I think overall the way that South Africa has been playing has been a really entertaining brand of cricket. They've obviously put some big scores on the board, as well. They've got some very dangerous bowlers, both pace and spin, and they'll field the house down just as we would expect to do, as well. I think of all the teams in the comp, probably us, Australia and South Africa are evenly matched in terms of skills we bring to the table. AB obviously leads them strongly, as well, and they'll be a tough proposition, but I'm pretty happy with the horse we've got, too.
Q. Obviously the last time these two sides met in a World Cup you guys came out on top in the knockouts. Can you draw on that experience at all?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Probably not. It would be nice to say you could, but I think it was four years ago, and different conditions, different teams. There's some guys obviously from both teams still a part of the squads, but overall I think both teams are in a different space to what they were four years ago. They came over here, they touched us up a little bit in the opening couple of games that we had of our home summer, and then obviously we had a good win against them in a warmup game down in Christchurch. I don't think too much separates both teams. As I keep saying, I think it'll come down to a pretty small margin, and it'll be the team that grabs that opportunity which will come out on top.
Q. South Africa are a very good team, but is there any area in the South African team which you think you can probably attack, focus on, like to get the most out of it, maybe the fifth bowler or something like that?
BRENDON McCULLUM: I guess you look at all sorts of strategies when you're trying to scout teams and work out obviously their strengths and their weaknesses. You try and negate their strengths and obviously dominate their weaknesses, but games unfold differently to how you sometimes plan them, as well. We've got to be pretty fluid with our game plan. Just because I've got maybe not as strong a fifth bowler doesn't mean the fifth bowler still can't be a wicket taking option for you. We've got to be respectful of that, see how the game unfolds and make sure that we're in a good calm state as we go out there and try and execute our skills. If we can find, I guess, an opportunity at some point to put the hammer down, then we'll certainly try and do that.
Q. You touched on it before, just talk about the two -- I think you've lost the last three competitive one-dayers against South Africa but you guys won the most recent encounter between these two sides in a warmup match. How much can you really take from that warmup match into this and does that give you an edge?
BRENDON McCULLUM: We played really well in that warmup game, and I think South Africa were on us; they were probably a little bit off the ball, but I think they've certainly progressed since that time, and the cricket that they've been playing is very strong. Our focus is probably more on how we've been going as a team and on ensuring that we put our best foot forward and execute the game we know works for us, and if we do that, as I've said all along, it'll make us hard to beat. As I said, the warmup game doesn't have a great deal of relevance because obviously times have changed since then.
Q. You and others in the team may well have had the feeling that somebody from within can go on and get a really big score himself, but now that it's been done, a double century in a knockout match, what has that done in a very short span of time in the team going into another bigger match?
BRENDON McCULLUM: I think we all just sat back and enjoyed it to be honest. We always try and hope that one of us will be able to go out there and peel off a score of such significance that we saw from Gup the other day. To actually see it unfold and to see it in such a crunch game, as well, and for him to still display the same game plan which he trains so hard for was just confirmation that obviously it can be done. I think that will flow on in terms of confidence to the rest of the squad. Yeah, still can't quite believe how big a score he actually got the other day. That was a sublime innings and one that he'll never forget and one that everyone that was at the ground will never forget, either.
Q. AB mentioned that playing New Zealand is like playing very gentlemanly and stuff, talking about sledging. But in a big game like this, would you be saying anything about the choking tag? Would you make any remark about that to them about that? And secondly, the whole nation has been almost intoxicated with the way you guys have been playing, which almost builds up pressure in a big game. Considering the strength of squad that you have, would you be shocked if they freeze up tomorrow, your team, that is?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Well, firstly, I think the term choking is quite inappropriate. I think South Africa is a very good team. We obviously had a bit of a stash with them four years ago. I think both teams have grown up immensely in that time, and we're different teams and play the game in different spirit, and I would expect us to go out there and focus purely on displaying our skills, trying to be as good as what we can with ball, bat and in the field, and leaving nothing out there in terms of our heart and our soul and trying to be as desperate as we can. That was not how we want to play the game. I think other teams will do that sort of thing, but for us we're not good enough to have that as our focus. We need to make sure that we're respectful of the game and go about our work. The way we've been playing is obviously a pretty exciting brand of cricket, as well. Just because it's a pressure game you shouldn't change that. It's the greatest chance for success; we know that. For us to compete against big teams on a regular basis and for us to win World Cups in crunch games, we need to remain true to that. I believe that's our most authentic style of cricket, it's one that serves us well, and I wouldn't expect that that would change tomorrow.
Q. On a similar manner to that, AB spoke about you've got a lot of mates in the South African team, and when you come in the heat of battle how do you put that aside and just focus on what needs to be done right there?
BRENDON McCULLUM: Yeah, I do. I've got a few mates on the South African team. I think the way the cricket has gone now, you play so much cricket around the world against teams and against guys and you form relationships, and obviously IPL helps with that, as well. When you're out on the field representing your country, you've got a duty to ensure that you go out and you try to perform at your absolute best, your best level. Tomorrow is no different to that. It will be just the way it'll be then, and as I said, either way, make sure that the teams catch up after the game, and whether you win or you lose we'll catch up, and whoever loses will wish the team all the best for the final, and whoever wins I'm sure I'm sure will be gracious about that.
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Updated Date: Mar 23, 2015 19:13:40 IST