Matches (14)
ENG v WI (1)
Legends WC (2)
RHF Trophy (1)
T20 Blast (8)
MLC (2)

The man behind New Zealand's world title

In 2000, New Zealand won the ICC Knockout in Nairobi, but the coach behind that achievement, David Trist, is largely forgotten

Brydon Coverdale
Brydon Coverdale
David Trist oversees New Zealand's net session, Auckland, February 15, 2001

David Trist, coach of an ICC Knockout-winning team and owner of one of the finest moustaches in New Zealand cricket  •  Getty Images

There is no bigger stage in world cricket than the MCG, the cavernous stadium that has hosted more international matches than any other ground. It was on this very spot that Test cricket was born in 1877. There are few smaller stages in world cricket than Nairobi's Gymkhana Club Ground, the home of the sport in a country that does not hold Test status, and a ground whose capacity is barely one-fifteenth that of the MCG.
On that biggest of stages, Brendon McCullum led New Zealand in a World Cup final against Australia in 2015; they lost, but millions around the world saw them do it. Fifteen years earlier, Stephen Fleming captained New Zealand in another world final, on the much smaller stage in Nairobi. His team won the ICC Knockout Trophy, still New Zealand's only world title, but their success is largely forgotten.
Perhaps the contrast is best summed up by the fates of the two coaches involved. Mike Hesson's relationship with McCullum was widely viewed as a key to New Zealand reaching the World Cup final, and later that year both men earned places on the Queen's Birthday honours list. And the coach who with Fleming lifted the ICC Knockout Trophy? Forget honours, his name itself is largely forgotten in the cricket world.
The man in question is David Trist, a former Canterbury fast bowler and owner of one of New Zealand cricket's all-time finest moustaches (and that is saying something in the country that gave us Ewen Chatfield, Richard Hadlee, John Morrison and Glenn Turner). Trist spent only two years as coach of New Zealand, but during that time he helped deliver that Knockout Trophy triumph.
His life has changed dramatically since that October day at the Gymkhana Club Ground. When Trist quit as New Zealand coach after only two years, the board's CEO, Chris Doig, asked him to stay on. But Trist felt he had taken the team as far as he could and it was time for a change. He stayed involved in cricket by coaching at an academy in India, and then at a school in England. And then he dropped out completely.
"I've been repaid, many times over," Trist says, with a lump in his throat. "Cricket has been very kind to me, and I'm very grateful"
Trist is now 69, and lives on a farm on the Banks Peninsula, just outside Christchurch, breeding Charolais cattle and caring for his wife, Christine, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease. He hasn't watched a full cricket match - even on TV - for seven or eight years. Told that the Champions Trophy was approaching next month, Trist was surprised: "Really? Where is it?" Such is the passage of time.
Trist asks nothing of the game that gave him everything. He was at Christchurch Boys' High School with the Hadlee brothers, played for New Zealand, coached Eastern Province to the Currie Cup title in South Africa, coached in Hong Kong and the Netherlands, and then helped steer his own nation to a world title. "I've been repaid, many times over," Trist says, with a lump in his throat. "Cricket has been very kind to me, and I'm very grateful."
There is, though, one thing he wishes had happened a little bit differently. When his men lifted the ICC Knockout Trophy back in 2000, it was mid-October and well before the New Zealand cricket season had started, and it was in Kenya and thus not an ideal time zone for viewers back home to watch, and the win flew somewhat under the radar.
"I don't think in New Zealand, because it was virtually still in the winter, I don't think it was ever fully recognised for what it was," Trist says. "The players never quite got the recognition they deserved. It would have been nice for the players to be able to wallow in it for a bit longer."
And despite the fact that the knockout nature of the tournament meant only three wins were needed to secure the title, New Zealand's achievement was still significant. In game one, they beat a Zimbabwe side that had just beaten them 2-1 in a bilateral series the previous month. In game two, they defeated a Pakistan outfit boasting Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq, Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq.
In the final they faced an India side featuring Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan, and when India reached 141 for 0 in the 27th over, it could have been game over. Even after pegging India back to 264, New Zealand began their chase poorly, losing two wickets within the first six overs. But then came an unbeaten 102 from Chris Cairns, which turned the match New Zealand's way.
"Cairns was outstanding, and played an innings that he will remember forever, because it was the winning of the game," Trist says. "But the feeling was we could do it, and we had to do it. That was what pervaded the dressing room - although there were moments of concern, quite clearly, with losing wickets early and one or two other batsmen not quite doing what they had done previously.
"But Cairns' innings was one of his greatest, if not his greatest, innings, in so much as it won basically the only thing New Zealand has ever won. He could take the game away from you. He was a big hitter, but he was also technically very sound. He wasn't unsettled by fast bowling, and against spin he was positive.
"I think in the latter stage of that innings, the Indians went from 'We've won this' to 'Oh shit!' And Chris went on, of course, to get a hundred. It was a huge innings, and probably one of the most important innings in terms of New Zealand that we've witnessed."
The celebrations were unique. Doig was also an opera singer, and in the team bus on the way back to the hotel in Nairobi, he put his skills to good use.
"I don't think it was ever fully recognised for what it was. The players never quite got the recognition they deserved. It would have been nice for the players to be able to wallow in it for a bit longer"
Trist on New Zealand's ICC Knockout triumph
"He'd sung extensively in Vienna and Europe and been trained there. He loved his cricket and was a flamboyant character," Trist says. "He had created the kind of atmosphere in the team - along with me and Stephen Fleming - to say 'This is a big chance for us, and we've got to step up and take it with both hands and not look back with any regrets.'
"In the team bus on the way back to the hotel, he got up and started to sing. It was just an amazing atmosphere from then on. The boys joined in, and that was a very powerful moment."
If Trist and Doig were two of the key off-field figures behind the Knockout Trophy victory, another was Jeff Crowe. Now a long-serving ICC match referee, Crowe was at the time the manager of the New Zealand side, and Trist said he played an important role in handling some of the bigger personalities in the New Zealand squad.
And this was a squad with a mix of what Trist called "strong characters" and some more understated types who did their work with a minimum of fuss. One player who had a big impact on the tournament was Roger Twose, who scored 85 in the opening win over Zimbabwe, 87 in the victory over Pakistan, and 31 in the final. Shortly after the tournament, Twose would rise to No. 2 on the ODI batting rankings.
"Roger was an interesting character - and 'character' is probably the best way to put it," Trist says. "He liked his cricket, played in a positive way and believed in himself, and believed that every game was an exciting opportunity for him.
"He was a bit like Chris Cairns in that they felt you trusted them and you could give them a bit of rope, but pull them in when necessary. I had [Adam] Parore as well, who was also another strong character like that. All teams have these strong characters who believe in certain things and it's a matter of getting the best out of them."
On the bowling front, left-arm fast bowler Shayne O'Connor took 5 for 46 in the win over Pakistan, running through the lower order in the final stages of the innings to ensure a gettable target for the New Zealand batsmen.
"He did swing the ball nicely, and on his day he was well up to international level," Trist says of O'Connor. "On that occasion he was at his best. They weren't gimme wickets, they were earned, and he thoroughly deserved everything he got that day. It was a winning of the game."
Then there was the seemingly evergreen allrounder Chris Harris, already a ten-year veteran of international cricket, who scored a critical 46 in the final chase and compiled the match-winning 122-run partnership with Cairns.
"Chris Harris was one of those lovely cricketers who I bumped into when I first went back to Canterbury: full of energy, a mercurial kind of cricketer, really," Trist says. "A good fielder, could bowl a bit, never ever stopped trying. We were lucky to have him all the way through."
And of course there was Fleming, who made few runs himself in that Knockout Trophy but coolly steered his men in the field and at the age of 27 - already more than three years into his captaincy tenure - delivered New Zealand's sole triumph on the world stage.
Trist is typically humble when describing his own contributions - "all I did was light that fire, keep talking to them about what they could achieve"
"He was a young man who stood out very early on," Trist says of Fleming, whom he first encountered while coaching Canterbury. "I can remember at Lancaster Park having met him a couple of times and had him at practice a couple of times, I said to Martin Crowe, 'This guy is going to be the next you.' He looked at me and said, 'Really Tristy?' I said 'Yes, he has all the attributes of a successful captain.'"
And so it proved. With Fleming in charge on the field, and Trist and Jeff Crowe steering proceedings behind the scenes, New Zealand won the Knockout Trophy. Trist is typically humble when describing his own contributions - "All I did was light that fire, keep talking to them about what they could achieve" - but he acknowledges that taken as a whole, the environment just clicked.
The result was that New Zealand, population less than five million, knocked off India, population one billion, in the final, and won what remains their only world trophy. They came quickly back down to earth, losing 5-0 to South Africa in an ODI series immediately afterwards, but nothing could take the gloss off the Knockout Trophy.
"I look back on it as pleasing for the players in the first instance, and a special moment for New Zealand," Trist says. "Even though they were only three matches, they were very testing ones: Zimbabwe in Africa, and then us as underdogs beating two of the powerhouses of world cricket on a fair and equal environment - we caused one of the bigger upsets in one-day cricket finals.
"It's like if you're watching the Grand National or the Melbourne Cup and an outsider wins - there's always something special about it. If you have that mercurial kind of player or story, it gives it something that people weren't expecting. I think all those players on that tour will remember that day."
David Trist certainly does, even if few people outside of New Zealand cricket circles remember that he was part of it.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale