It is not hard to pick a winner in this category. New Zealand was in a bit of a transition period at the time. Jeremy Coney had just retired and the captaincy had been passed onto Jeff (yes Jeff) Crowe.
Fortunes in the test form of the game were at a high. But a lot of that revolved around Richard Hadlee who was focussing on becoming the world’s leading test wicket taker. This meant he skipped this World Cup because he was scared of getting sick.
He would return to India a year later to achieve his goal.
The build-up was minimal; a 3 match home series at home against the West Indies, naturally won by the visitors. In fact the last ODI victory was 16 months before this World Cup started. And it showed.
The Reliance World Cup started with a 3 run win against Zimbabwe who were at that stage five years away from test status. An interesting 64 off 96 from pinch-hitter Martin Snedden at the top of the order there.
The best performance was probably a few games later against Australia but if ever there was a game that got away it was this one…
There was another unconvincing win over Zimbabwe before the real fun began.
It all finished in excruciating style; a complete hammering at the hands of India. One wicket down, 18 overs to spare, no individual score over 40….
To be fair, this side travelled to the sub-continent with no real expectations. This was in the middle of the Glenn Turner V2.0 experiment.
It was a year on from the horror centenary thing, and the squad ranged from experimental to dysfunctional. For example the last ODI before the tournament was the Robert Kennedy special.
The first game in Nagpur was a narrow win over England, followed by a win over the Netherlands and that great trivia question around the only international wicket from a certain in-swing bowler.
Amongst all that was a hammering from South Africa, where the highest score from a New Zealand batsman was 33.
South Africa then showed who was boss, before Shane Thomson really bossed the UAE with figures of 3/20. Then Pakistan brought things back down to earth with a hammering (highest score 42). A pattern had developed.
So New Zealand stumbled into the Quarter Finals where they met Australia. The batting order was decided by throwing sticks into the air. Germon ©(wk) batted at 3 and 5 respectively and they did well.
But Shane Thomson at 9, for example seemed strange. Harris got cramp, and what promised to be a winning score was not to happen. Mark Waugh and co mowed it down with ease.
On paper, arguably the best New Zealand team to go off to a World Cup. It was based around a batch of all-rounders every bit as good as this current England side. Cairns, Harris, Oram, Adams, Styris. Fleming and Astle had a lot of experience, there was an up and coming keeper called McCullum, Vettori had established himself as a quality ODI bowler. And there was Shane Bond.
Maybe the first game showed us what was to come. Playing Sri Lanka in Bloemfontein New Zealand decided to leave out Vettori because some scouting told them it wouldn’t turn. It did, and the tournament started with a loss despite an extraordinary innings of 141 out of 225 from Styris.
The rest of pool play went well. Stephen Fleming played his best ODI innings in Johannesburg to beat the hosts and, in conjunction with some Duckworth-Lewis incompetence, saw the favourites bow out at the group stage.
But it wasn’t as simple as that. On security grounds New Zealand forfeited their match in Kenya. With the unlikely trio of Sri Lanka, Kenya and New Zealand progressing through to the dearly departed Super Six stage there were no points carried through.
Never mind; Zimbabwe (how did they qualify for that round?) were dispatched first up so the semi-finals were still achievable.
Then that match against Australia. They were 84/7, and Bond had 6/23. But Andy bloody Bichel and Michael bloody Bevan dragged Australia through 208.
You would have thought that was a gettable target. But, in a side so laden with talent, it seemed like a good idea to open with Vettori; strangely McMillan didn’t play that one. And it all fell apart at pace.
Somehow, New Zealand lost by 96 runs.
There was still mathematical hope. A sudden death match against India who New Zealand had beaten 5-2 a few months ago. McMillan was back, and opening and Astle was at 3. That reversal remains a mystery to this day.
Anyway, after 3 balls both of them were back in the pavilion. The highest scorer that day was Fleming with 30. New Zealand made 146 off 46 overs.
There was some fun when India was 21/3 but that was it.
This was the third World Cup. New Zealand had made the semi-finals of the previous two and had turned into a decent ODI unit since then.
In the end we failed to qualify for the semi-finals based on a net Run Rate of -0.087 RPO.
Against Pakistan and England it was Win 1 Loss 1. The crucial game though was the loss against the then embryonic test nation of Sri Lanka.
There was his extraordinary ODI. That 65 run partnership for that last wicket remains the second highest for that wicket in World Cups, and there are so many questions to ask.
As in; was De Mel bowled out? What match did Bruce Edgar think he was playing in? And should you really be at a World Cup if you thin a RR of 3.1 is acceptable?