By Alex Braae
When something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The Black Caps have suckered us in again, good and proper. We’ve been through this sort of thing before, of course. Previous World Cups have featured exciting, chancy runs to the semi finals. Perhaps this is our year, we said.
But this one was different. Not only did they go through the first 8 games of the World Cup unbeaten, there was the period of genuine, sustained excellence beforehand. For more than a year, the Black Caps were one of the toughest teams in the world.
We beat all comers, in all formats. The feats got more and more outrageous. McCullum scoring a triple century. Matt Henry averaging 15 with the ball. McClenaghan running through teams with ease on a regular basis. We thought we had seen it all, and then Elliott and Ronchi (of all people) put together a record partnership to salvage a horrible position against Sri Lanka.
The tournament proper rolled around, and more records tumbled. McCullum’s fastest 50. Guptill’s highest score. Trent Boult thrashing Geoff Allott’s World Cup wicket haul tally.
There was no debate anymore, this was our year.
Cricket took over the nation. All of a sudden, people who had never watched a game, never knew what a no ball or where the mid wicket was, suddenly started taking an interest. Conversations at water coolers turned from the contestants on The Bachelor, to the composition of the bowling attack.
One thing all these new fans had in common, was the vague notion that we were normally crap at cricket. Those of us with the scars of earlier defeats tried to patiently explain, but perhaps it was a mystery to us too. Actually, we’re quite good now.
And then, Sunday. The rug was pulled from under us. We looked behind the curtain and saw the same old Black Caps. Same batting collapses, same meekness in the face of Australian hostility, even the same bad luck. Of course the ball would hit Steve Smith’s stumps and not dislodge the bails in a World Cup final. When else could that possibly happen to the Black Caps?
The gods of cricket laugh at New Zealand fans. This was not just disappointment. There was hope, even expectation. And that made the defeat all the worse. Had we been knocked out in pool play, nobody would bat an eyelid. In the quarters or semi finals, oh well. Better luck next time.
At this stage, perhaps I should follow the argument to it’s logical conclusion. Declare I will never again watch the Black Caps play, never support them, give up on cricket altogether. How about those All Whites eh? Maybe watch some Warriors games.
But here’s the thing. I know that as painful as this was, I will happily sign up to have it happen all over again. Tens, hundreds of thousands of us will be right there again next time, and the time after that, and the time after that. We will never give up on the Black Caps.
They may have let us down, but that was only possible because they took us up so high. And when the drought finally breaks, when the Black Caps bring home a World Cup trophy, it will be all the sweeter having endured this.
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