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Gavin Larsen on the 1992 World Cup: 'Politicians wanted to come into the dressing room'

The New Zealand seamer recalls the time his side were the toast of their nation

Gavin Larsen
"Opening the bowling with Dipak Patel took the opposition by surprise"  •  Getty Images

"Opening the bowling with Dipak Patel took the opposition by surprise"  •  Getty Images

We were down on ourselves in the weeks and months leading into the 1992 tournament. New Zealand cricket was going through some tough times. I'd just come into the team in 1989-90, when we were having a change of guard. It was the last tournament for Ian Smith and John Wright, and we had young guys who had just emerged.
We got towelled in the series against England before the World Cup. There was friction between the board, the selectors and Martin Crowe as captain. They wanted Hogan [Crowe] out. It was all very unsettling.
The absolute catalyst was game one at Eden Park, where we beat Australia. There was a pitch invasion at the end. It was unbelievable. Eden Park became our fortress through the 1992 World Cup. The pitch was slow. It was a fallacy to say they all were - the pitches in Napier and Wellington were quicker. In terms of maximising the use of the medium-pacers, though, Auckland played right into our hands. We won seven on the bounce, which was unheard of for a New Zealand cricket team. After we'd won three or four, there was this tidal wave of support.
You know you are cracking up when politicians want to come into the changing room and when the public are applauding you as you walk through an airport. I'd never seen it before and never saw it again. They are quite a demanding public. We are a small country. The cricketers get looked upon to punch above their weight. The public can tend to jump on the back of the players and administrators. It was no different back then. When we beat Australia there was a release of emotion. Like, "Wow, are we on to something special here?"
The dibblies, dobblies and wobblies, as they were coined, were not an intentional ploy. The real innovation was around Mark Greatbatch at the top, going at the bowlers in the first 15 overs, and Dipak Patel opening the bowling with his offspin. That really took the opposition by surprise. That's where we created a significant point of difference. You've got to applaud Martin and our coach, Warren Lees. Marty was a very creative and brilliant thinker, the genesis came from him. Tactically he was light years ahead of anyone else I played under. He was the boss, he ran the gig. He was like a chess master, the way he moved his players around. He was just clever.
We had a recipe and took it from game to game; the fields we set, bowling changes, very short spells - that was quite rare back then, one-over spells. If I go back to that day, the pivotal moment was when Martin tore his hamstring.
Even now, there's great pride, but it's tempered with the realisation of what could have been. We scored 262 [in the semi-final], which is worth about 320 these days. Of the three tournaments I played in, 1992 was the one we could, and perhaps should, have won.