ICC World Cup 2023, IND vs NZ | New Zealand: The Men in Black you hate to hate
With Pakistan, it`s war. With Australia it`s a game of one- upmanship. With former Colonial rulers England, it`s payback time. But one team that Indians find hard to hold a grudge against, of any kind, are the Blackcaps, the perennial “good guys” of the game.
“Even if you want to think of revenge, these guys are so nice you cannot get into that zone,” Virat Kohli had famously said before a T20 game in a bilateral series in New Zealand in 2020. “They are probably one side that has set the example for teams to play international cricket.”
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Whenever captain Kane Williamson hits a regal cover drive boundary, there`s hardly a stare-back at the bowler, the staple of most high-octane battles on the pitch; one would be hard pressed to find a single footage of sledging by fast bowler Lockie Ferguson after he has delivered a mean bouncer; Mitchell Santner after taking a breathtaking catch will only have a wide grin, whereas many others would gloat with vulgar glee.
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It`s as if the team is moulded in gentlemanliness, where the likes of Rohit Sharma, Rahul Dravid, Courtney Walsh, Kumar Sangakara, Inzamam ul Haq and Eoin Morgan will find ready places.
So while India will look to wipe away the pain of Manchester 2019 where they were eliminated from the semis by the New Zealanders, Rohit Sharma`s boys are unlikely to do it with a sense of revenge. It`s more of a purpose of reaching the final rather than retribution.
That was not the only time the Kiwis had broken India`s heart. Virat Kohli`s men had lost another big final to New Zealand the 2021 World Test Championship Final.
Heartache was certainly there but despite a clash against the same vanquishers is approaching, no one is uttering the grudge word.
“They obviously want to bring out the best they can in every ball and every game, they are intense in their body language, they are not nasty, they are not doing things which are not acceptable on the field,” Kohli had said.
History has shown that it`s perhaps best for a team to play with their heads than hearts when competing with the Kiwis.
Any show of aggression towards the New Zealanders only results in an own-goal, like former Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin discovered during their World Cup final in 2015 when heavy criticism came his way for his over-aggressive show.
It was just 11 overs into the match when he gave Martin Guptill a vicious send-off from behind the stumps. Haddin had mocked Guptill by clapping his gloves in the Kiwi`s face after he was bowled by Glenn Maxwell.
Grant Elliott and Daniel Vettori were sent back with not-so-pleasant words.
The Australian media had termed it a blot on the glowing image of Australia`s World Cup triumph that it felt no amount of rubbing ever will remove.
At the same time, the success of unassuming Kiwi cricketers, who just go about their business calmly, never causes resentment.
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