Kiwi fans, soak in this winning feeling
It's been an extraordinary fortnight for the New Zealand cricket team and its dragon-skinned but long-suffering fan base. It was nice to hear the captain, Brendon McCullum, acknowledge the resilience of the team's supporters at the Cake Tin on Friday night as he was interviewed in front of a plastic splashback wallpapered in logos.
On Saturday I left the treacly voices of the Alternative Commentary Collective , preposterously intrusive music, and urine-yellow seats of Westpac Stadium behind to pop through the gate at the end of my neglected garden and absorb some low-level club cricket viewing at Ben Burn Park.
There are no seats and the only noise is from the rasping cicadas and distant lawnmowers. Clouds meander past overhead, brushing by like a pod of albino whales in the sky, their shadows racing over the club cricketers and the park's dry grass. I watched as a bowler called Rupert scooted in off about five paces, with a style that was not in any textbook ever written. He bowled with essentially no front arm - choosing to forget the old coach's instruction of pulling the chain before unleashing the windmill of the arm with the ball in hand.
From the Beehive end, a big bloke muscled in and bowled a sequence of atrocious deliveries: wide, wide, wide. Then he barrelled in with an inswinging yorker that crashed into the batsman's poles. "Ha haaaa," roared the skipper. "Do you call that your three-wide set-up mate?" That particular trap might well be in the textbook, probably in the Robert Kennedy or Andrew Penn sections.
And speaking of poles, another batsman called for the helmet to face an awkward-looking pace bowler from the Makara Hill end. The combination of safety headwear and a gentle artificial deck got the batsman's confidence up and he swished into a rollicking pull shot channelling his inner Ricky Ponting. But he wasn't a thin-eyed Tasmanian with 24,000 first-class runs, he was a mere village cricketer and the ball hurtled through his stained cotton pants and crashed into his nether regions.
Guffaws from his team in the shadows of the trees on the embankment emerged. "That should get it working again," said the non-striker helpfully as the recipient of the ball to the box gulped in pain, frozen on all fours on the batting crease. "It's meant to be a standing eight-count mate," someone chirped from the slip cordon.
There's a joy and relaxing rhythm in cricket - the setting and resetting of the field each ball, the thwack of leather on willow, the mid-pitch fist bumps between batsmen, and the occasional high-decibel appeal.
People like me aren't patriotic cricket fans, we just love the game. Sure, we might have a preference about which team wins or loses or draws or ties, but pretty much any game will do.
If you were a New Zealand cricket fan who only watched the game for the joy of victory, you would be clinically depressed by now. You would be among the most embittered sports fans in the nation and you'd probably have Radio Sport's talkback number in your recently called numbers list. You'd ring up and make lots of dumb analogies with rugby - where New Zealand rarely lose, and where, if the All Blacks are defeated, people start punching things and each other.
As a Kiwi cricket fan, you can't afford to be arrogant because there's always a sense of impermanence about the winning. This week beating India in a blackwash one-day series on wickets that were non-discriminatory did feel fantastic. The New Zealand team played magnificently and deserved to win the series comprehensively - it was just so bloody unexpected.
A lot has been made of the timing of the series victory coinciding with the weird wheels of the IPL auction beginning to turn, and as the shakedown and centralisation of cricket power started to freak cricketing geo-politicists out. It's convenient to say it inspired the New Zealand team, but I don't think it was the main factor behind the win.
Most and best of all, they played like a team that cared a lot. They played like they loved being out in the middle of Seddon Park, McLean Park, Eden Park and the Westpac Stadium. That meant they bowled with ferocity in their hearts, and with their heads, set fields that were funky and dedicated to getting batsmen out, protected themselves from batting collapses, looked hacked off if they dropped a catch, and chased every ball to within an inch of the ANZ Corflute signs on the boundary rope.
There was an intensity that seemed to bring the New Zealanders together and this had the side effect of rattling the Indian side. The men in blue looked cool and immaculately groomed but nonchalant and disinterested.
It's time for Kiwi cricket fans to soak it up. Indian fans should be asking for an explanation.
Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets here