New Zealand v West Indies, Super Eights, World Twenty20, Pallekele

Niceness only gets you so far, NZ

Despite their excellent record in world tournaments, New Zealand lack an edge to their cricket

Sidharth Monga

October 1, 2012

Comments: 44 | Text size: A | A

A concerned Brendon McCullum checks on Akila Dananjaya who was hit on the face, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, World T20 2012, Super Eights, Pallekele, September 27, 2012
Brendon McCullum's concern for Akila Dananjaya was a nice gesture but summed up too much about New Zealand © AFP
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Less than a fortnight after receiving their Spirit Of Cricket Award, New Zealand already seem to have done enough to win another. When a debutant bowler was hit in the face, Brendon McCullum and Rob Nicol - never mind his Italian mob guy looks - didn't for a moment think of running off the ricochet, instead showing concern for Akila Dananjaya. It becomes all the more significant when you look at the result: a tied Super Eights match against Sri Lanka, after which the Super Over - not quite as preposterous as the bowl-out, yet not quite cricket - denied them the points.

It is tempting to think how many other batsmen would have reacted in a similar manner in a format where hitting and running like hell is just the thing to do. Forget the spirit of cricket, though. New Zealand have won hearts over the years with their show at world events: their seven semi-finals in 14 World Cups across formats is second only to Australia's semi-final record.

They haven't gone past any of those semi-finals, though. So they are a general nice team that try hard, reach the last four, but mean no offence. They were not even behind the change of water suppliers at this World Twenty20, although their players suffered the most gastric problems. It is endearing all right for neutral supporters, but their fans and players have to be sick of these frustrating misses.

They might be massive overachievers to some, but on days like the last day of matches in their Super Eights group, you wonder if there are bigger underachievers around. They had no business losing, and they had only themselves to blame. Despite stomach bugs, sore Achilles, a key player's personal issues keeping him out and botched batting orders, on pitches increasingly helping spinners, they still came to within scoring 140 in 20 overs with 10 wickets in hand of giving themselves a fair chance of making it to their eighth World Cup semi-final.

Yet, with no obvious pressure of extraordinary bowling - not until Sunil Narine bowled the 17th and 19th overs for just five runs - their batsmen bottled it. They were up against three specialists bowlers, and Darren Sammy and other bits-and-pieces men, but no one other than Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum could score at more than a run a ball.

Taylor, the lone man on the burning deck, who almost single-handedly tied the game, and changed his gameplan on the spot to counter Marlon Samuels' 125kmph darts from two steps, was too gutted to talk about what happened. "We gave it our best. At times we didn't execute as we would have liked. We lost key moments in the game against Sri Lanka and again here today," was all he could say.

Ask him of the luck involved in the Super Over, and Taylor goes, "No, I think execution comes into it," Taylor said. "There's a bit of luck that goes into everything you do, but there's a lot of training and thought that goes into all aspects of the game. It just wasn't our day."

Niceness again. You want some badness from New Zealand at such times. You want them to complain of the seven runs that Steve Finn's kicking of stumps cost them. You want them to complain about the absurdity of a Super Over in non-knockout games. They just stay nice, racking up spirit-of-cricket points.

There is no empirical study that will tell you niceness equals lack of ruthlessness, or if New Zealand have not found themselves out of their depth in some of these semi-finals, but for once you want them to be dragged out of a World Cup. Kicking and screaming.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by generation-next on (October 3, 2012, 14:31 GMT)

Give me New Zealander niceness any day of the week in comparison to Aussie ruthlessness. I don't accept the correlation being made between niceness and not winning. Clive Lloyd's West Indians had a global reputation for "niceness" - relax, drink a beer, walk when out - and it didn't reduce their victories. The analysis on NZ's losses should do deeper and not sensationalise or demonise a dimension that celebrates their humanity.

Posted by BenGundry on (October 3, 2012, 3:01 GMT)

On balance, NZ shoulda, coulda, woulda qualified for the semi's. If they'd got one more run on either the SL or WI game, they'd have got through. But they didn't. They've got to look at their game and work out why they missed out. They had the experienced players to get them through but failed to execute. This is a management issue.

Posted by plow on (October 2, 2012, 20:54 GMT)

Well thanks to everyone who thinks we're a bunch of nice guys. Personally I'm sick and tired of losing. We have the players for T20 to win so we should win more often. The problem with losing so often is that even hard core cricket fans like me start losing interest. Ross Taylor batted well this tournament, but he needs to start being more agressive and showing that losing actually hurts him more than his softy softly interviews. Spirit of cricket award is a bit like a lucky dip prize at school where you're the only guy left who didnt win any prizes that are worth anything. Come on Rosco, show that it really hurts to lose or hand over the Captaincy to McCullum. I almost get the idea that winning reguaurly is something Rosco is a bit uncomfortable with, supreme excellence may put him in the limelight as a winner and I'm not sure he's totally comfortable with that either. Being a nice guy, now thats what seems to fit best.... unfortunately.

Posted by   on (October 2, 2012, 20:37 GMT)

But Niceness is what defines NZ, Thats why they are the second favorite team for most of the people!!

Posted by ANWAR_FK on (October 2, 2012, 11:01 GMT)

salutes to you brendon...i thought it was an amazing gesture when i saw the match.. but never thought of the big picture in that they wud have won the match if he wasnt nice to the young spinner.. thanks to cricinfo for pointing that out and my admiration to brendon and kiwi team has grown further.. hope they win a big tournament in the near future..a team india fan...

Posted by Ammy_rd on (October 2, 2012, 8:38 GMT)

New Zealand's gesture was a good one and it should be emulated by others. Let cricket remain a game, not war. The point then is that why just keep an award for the spirit of cricket? Make it more objective! Gift a tournament to the top two spirit of cricket teams at the venue of the best team's choice and name it "THE SPIRIT OF CRICKET TOURNAMENT". The team making the least noise must also enjoy the privilege of extra referrals or maybe less harsher penalties. It is important because cricketers are the role models of millions across the world. We don't want to have mean, animal like role models. Lets not judge things on material gains alone!

Posted by bhaloniaz on (October 2, 2012, 7:45 GMT)

Nicety has nothing to do with winning. WI team in 80s was humble and they were winning. For a population of a few millions NZ is a great team. Imagine they have 100 millions of people. They would have 10 or so teams as strong as current NZ team and their national team could beat AUS. Now they are beating other larger nations at some intervals. If they had 100 million people, they would have a Hadlee and a Bond in the team all the time.

Posted by   on (October 2, 2012, 7:37 GMT)

As a New Zealander I feel honored to be a stalwart supporter of a team associated with the aforementioned traits. With regard to performance yes it would be nice to win also but we realise that we have a limited player pool and population yet we are rarely ever easy beats on the international stage. We do extremely well with what we do have and by doing that, and continuing to do this as well as build upon past performances, combined with playing the game in such a spirit is suffice in my eyes.

Posted by MaheshVenkat on (October 2, 2012, 6:07 GMT)

I guess this is stretching things too far when there is no obvious correlation between being nice and winning. Not taking the single in the match against SriLanka defies all logic as it happened early in the game and there were so many things that could have changed. Remember NZ did not have anything similar in the WI match and they still tied. There are enough examples in sports to show that you can be nice and win - all the top tennis players (men) of today.

Posted by VivtheGreatest on (October 2, 2012, 4:55 GMT)

Totally agree with the author , the Super Over is an absurdity in non-knockout games

Posted by   on (October 2, 2012, 4:31 GMT)

NZ is good team and i always having soft corner for them sometime if India lose to them dont hurt me as much as others, but too much humble makes them weak team its kills fighting spirits towards winning the game. we Indian were also like this when we had lots of all rounder> Kapil, Sandip, Amarnath, Yashpal, Madanlal, Kirti, Binny> even after these ppl we were beaten by Pak & other team consistantly becos of humble nature, its changed when John Write & Ganguly thought them to fight to look at then Batsman with wide eyes talking to them with eyes without speaking a words yes spirit is there but not in cost of a game. i like NZ playes frm the years then any others good luck them.

Posted by camtang on (October 2, 2012, 3:32 GMT)

the reason aussie players are not nice and kiwis are, is purely because aussies are mongrols! NZ needs some mongrol in them if they dont they will never win. seeing southee reving up oppositions gives me a giant wide on! they need more mongrol, always have always will!

Posted by Sulli001 on (October 2, 2012, 3:28 GMT)

''Inconsistent Caps'' strike again!!….only good enough to bet Bangladesh says it all. Against both Sri Lanka and WI we were in a position to win and let the game slip through our fingers.

It whats between the ears that is missing in the team!

Posted by Paulonian on (October 2, 2012, 3:00 GMT)

So you are advocating running a single instead of checking on the well being of a 17 year old boy who might well have a fractured cheek bone or eye socket? Good sportsmanship isn't selective or dependant on whether or not you might win. I'll proudly support my team who try and play the game according to the laws and the spirit of the game.

Posted by bobbo2 on (October 2, 2012, 2:39 GMT)

Close again but NZ's problem is the stars perform very rarely. McCullum smashes the minnows but never backs it up against decent sides. McCullum, Guptill, Franklin and Oram got out to hopeless shots when chasing a small total. If one of them had hung around for another 10 runs we would have won easily. I get so frustrated as a fan watching NZ sometimes. And no excuses for no balls and wides in the super over. If the WI did not get a 6 no ball I think the result may have been different. Also feel Oram has had his day. I have been a fan but he hasn't hit runs for too long now. Seems he has lost his batting and time to get someone else. I feel NZ would have done lot better in this tournament with Jessie Ryder, who is by far the most gifted NZ batsman since Martin Crowe. Unfortunately, until he gets his act together, we won't have him. But anyway, I'll always support NZ but they can be a frustrating team to watch at times.

Posted by ariful_hstu07 on (October 2, 2012, 2:34 GMT)

I think, in group stage for a tie match super over could play but point should be equaly distributed on both teams.

Posted by nacs on (October 2, 2012, 2:32 GMT)

Well I don't agree with most of this article as niceness and competitive are independent things....australia wins not because they are rude or unnice...its because of their competitive spirit...

Posted by Sudhirhk on (October 2, 2012, 2:08 GMT)

Come on Sidharth! You want every team to be like SA or the Aussies, who, in the name of gamesmanship resort to cheap tricks like 'mental disintegration' or sledging the opponents and such? You want every team to start giving excuses for defeats borne out of their own doing? What's wrong with being nice? There's no stopping a team to win being nice and playing in the spirit of the game. The reason for NZ's failure is of their own doing. They had no business to lose this match or take it to the super over stage. It was some good bowling at the death and the pressure they created upon themselves cost them the match.

Posted by justanotherfan13 on (October 2, 2012, 2:07 GMT)

@ Ruwan: only criminals were sent to Aus from United Kingdom.Look where they are now!!

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (October 2, 2012, 2:00 GMT)

FOr years I have been fan of NZ cricket team. They can do wonders and then suddenly they do things which are bellow par. 80 % of them who watched todays match were sure that NZ had won the match. Had the same feelings even after NZ batted their super over but then Southee, who is one of the best fast bowlers in this formate, bowled no-balls and wides to give it all away.

Posted by   on (October 2, 2012, 1:32 GMT)

@ Ruwan, You are right, and you might also have noticed how Australia have been far more successful than NZ (and every other team) over the years.

Posted by   on (October 2, 2012, 1:30 GMT)

I would much rather be the arrogant/ hated guy that wins instead of the nice guy who goes empty handed anyday.. would prefer to be a winner and make my countrymen proud instead of getting applauded by the opposition for losing. As long as you dont cross the line and cheat, it's all good. NZ need some real mongrel (think Border, Imran) and badly.

Posted by   on (October 2, 2012, 1:22 GMT)

Even though I'm an avid West Indian supporter I've always loved the New Zealand teams since I was a child. Not because of their niceness but because I HAVE to admire anyone willing to play cricket in black! (It's for a very similar reason that I fell in love with their All Blacks)

I must say though, I wish some rules would come into play about bowlers knowing over the stumps during their run up. Finn has been ridiculous, at least once every match he does it! It should be treated as a no ball. The batsmen wouldn't have to suffer for something that's not their doing and bowlers would learn not to be so careless.

Posted by   on (October 2, 2012, 0:42 GMT)

Nuff respect NZ....great and talented team to watch.

Posted by LoveCric1975 on (October 2, 2012, 0:19 GMT)

NZ need to do a rugby haka before every game

Posted by Erebus26 on (October 2, 2012, 0:17 GMT)

After seeing Southee give Ramdin a send-off today and Franklin looking thoroughly hacked off during the England game I'm not sure NZ are always nice. They've always had guys who are ultra-competitive and like to dish it out on the field of play. The reason why they've not got over the line is simply because they don't have the resources, or the star quality, of some of the other teams in the tournament. I think they did brilliantly to run SL and WI close to be honest.

Posted by GavtheKiwi on (October 2, 2012, 0:10 GMT)

@TheGreenMushine, I think he might mean Jesse Ryder.

Posted by   on (October 1, 2012, 23:52 GMT)

Just wondering how and why NZ players are very nice and Australians are completely opposite. any theory?

Posted by yakironi98 on (October 1, 2012, 23:49 GMT)

Its no wonder why NZ finish last,

Nice guys finish last...

Posted by   on (October 1, 2012, 23:36 GMT)

Makes sense...the only time in the recent past I can recall NZ try a bit of gamesmanship was in the ODI WC when they milled about Faf du Plessis knowing he was young and susceptible to pressure but other than that one instance they all seem to be pretty mild mannered.

Posted by ScoreField on (October 1, 2012, 23:13 GMT)

It's sad to see NZ go out - I felt very happy when B Mc. concerned about this young lad, this niceness nothing to do with NZ exit from the tournament, they had very tough two games ended in ties-period. Considering the overall population of NZ they have achieved very high limits in cricket. Niceness is needed for the game, this is not a battlefield but playing field. Regarding Walsh - Greats are Great - WI yet to fill Walsh's shoes!! Also we know B Mc. Also a great specially in this format

Posted by   on (October 1, 2012, 23:02 GMT)

I don't see why having a super over for non-knockout games is such a terrible thing. Wanting to have a result in every game is commendable thing. It's only the tame and weak-hearted that would want to split the pie and not go for the kill. If the argument was for a different method to decide the winner, that could be a topic for discussion.

Posted by Winchester666 on (October 1, 2012, 23:00 GMT)

Sure it would be fairer but you can't deny the drama over a super over & NZ would of still been eliminated had they settled for two ties. NZ had every opportunity to win that match, they should of won that match three times over.

I know Narines a wonderful bowler in T20 but 2 runs an over of his last 2 is just not acceptable for a batting team in T20. Then it comes down to 3 off the last 2 balls with Taylor on strike & they can't get it done, although it was a tough ball to put away for Taylor & you couldn't expect more than just bat on ball from Bracewlell. Then in the super overs they made 18, I was so confident with that total even with Gayle out there, then what does Southee do? Balls a no-ball right in the slot that goes for 6 & ends up costing them 8 after 1 delivery. After all their chances to win that was without a doubt the most disappointing skill execution.

Just so used to this type of performance from the black caps it doesn't really even hurt anymore.

Posted by   on (October 1, 2012, 22:54 GMT)

What an article!! Great stuff. After reading this idea I have no idea about whether to feel good or bad about team New Zealand. Thumbs up

Posted by rahuldengra on (October 1, 2012, 22:33 GMT)

@ANTS BULL - like penalties in football is very fair.

Posted by Tusker17 on (October 1, 2012, 22:24 GMT)

Cricket should be played by gentlemen, its a game for gentlemen and new zealand in that respect are true gentlemen. hats off to them. they are a far far better side than all this suggests! good luck to new zealand cricket!

Posted by harmske on (October 1, 2012, 22:09 GMT)

"You want some badness from New Zealand at such times" - as a NZ fan i've been praying to see something even close to badness/attitude/hostility being displayed on the field. instead, all i've been getting to see is james franklin & co (i.e. flynn, how, mcintosh, broom etc) at their mediocre best. WE NEED TO FIND ANOTHER DION NASH!! (can't believe i'm using caps lock but that's how desperate i am) We need a mongrel!! Or seven.

Posted by slasher on (October 1, 2012, 21:47 GMT)

I disagree. NZers have to play fair but hard to compete at ther best, it is in their make up and they have to utilise this to get the best out of themseleves, to play against this is to play against their nature. yes it will cost them a game here and there, just like overtly unfair play can bite you. Their problem at the moment is consitency in the team coaching and playing enough, they get better the more they play and frankly their schedule is working against them at the moment

Posted by TheMightyBradburn on (October 1, 2012, 21:40 GMT)

@Ranpath - nice story about Courtney Walsh and indeed showed his true character. However your details are some way off being accurate - there wasn't a last-ball six in either match, and England had several wickets in hand.

Posted by TheGreenMushine on (October 1, 2012, 21:28 GMT)

Brilliantly written Sidharth. New Zealand is probably every cricket fan's second team because of the way they act all nice like. By the way sorry for my ignorance but who is this 'a key player's personal issues keeping him out'?

Posted by   on (October 1, 2012, 21:23 GMT)

@ranpath: thats for walsh's consciousness to decide .. who are we are to condemn nice behaviour ..

Posted by Tage1987 on (October 1, 2012, 21:11 GMT)

Man it was nerve-racking to see two of my favorite teams,WI and New Zealand, dueling it out with the stakes as high as they were.

Posted by   on (October 1, 2012, 20:36 GMT)

Surely it is fairer to give half points each for the tie, and then decided who goes through to the next round on net run rates?

No other sport in the world has such stupid rules until the knockout games are on.

Posted by ranpath on (October 1, 2012, 19:37 GMT)

I agree that Niceness never works out. Ask Courtney Walsh. In two seperate games ( one v England, the other v Pakistan) at the same World Cup he had a chance to run out the last batsman who was backing up out of his ground. Walsh stopped his delivery stride and warned the batsman ( when the run out would have won the game for his side ). In both cases when he bowled the legal and final delivery of the game he was smashed for 6 ( by Allan Lamb and Abdul Qadir respectively ) and Wi lost the game !!!!!!

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Tournament Results
Sri Lanka v West Indies at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 7, 2012
West Indies won by 36 runs
Australia v West Indies at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 5, 2012
West Indies won by 74 runs
Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 4, 2012
Sri Lanka won by 16 runs
India v South Africa at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 2, 2012
India won by 1 run
Australia v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS) - Oct 2, 2012
Pakistan won by 32 runs
More results »
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