By Martin Hearnden
The call up was late, very late. A friend with contacts suddenly had tickets to distribute, who was I to say no; particularly as I had not actually been to a CWC game yet & for a someone who calls themselves a (ex)cricketer, this was a bit sad.
There is no point in trying to run through what happened at the game, everyone in the entire Kiwi diaspora is well aware of that, but please excuse me a few personal observations of that day in Mount Eden.
First and most importantly, the crowd all 40k of them. They were immense, epic, awesome or special, chose your superlative. And please do not be mistaken, the crowd were a serious factor in the win. The atmosphere was electric from the off, the NZ side were completely aware of their backing and likewise, the South Africans knew they were the visitors, all in the best possible way. At crucial moments the crowd must have provided a significant and possibly decisive lift. They never flagged during what turned out to be the longest day/night.
Orange is the new black? Hardly original but a random Dutchman wandering into Eden Park last night would have thought their beloved national football team had turned up. I suspect we will see at more than a few of these shirts in Melbourne on Sunday.
Back to the crowd for a second, what a disparate bunch they were. Yes, 95% kiwi (there must have been some South Africans/neutrals there but they were not immediately apparent) but kiwis or every hue. Pakeha, Maori, Pacific Islanders and loads of folk from the sub-continent. All resplendent in their replica kit, orange shirts and brandishing a wide variety of flags. In 2015 national passion comes in many shades and with loads of enthusiasm for what is being achieved.
As an ex-Jafa I am very happy to declare that I like Eden Park, I like it very much. No, it is not world class but still, when full and every stadium need to be full for best effect, it is an imposing place. A place that has witnessed a great deal of this small country’s finest sporting moments. Also, contrary to popular belief if is not hidden away in some suburban wasteland. You really can walk there from downtown – try the fan trail sometime there is a major event on. You won’t get mugged…
New Zealand does World Cups. Although we are the “junior” partner in this event it has been embraced wholeheartedly by the community at large. Cricket, I would suggest, has never been more popular in New Zealand, helped in no small measure by the success of the side. The RWC in 2011 was a major triumph, in its own way, the CWC of 2015 has matched it.
As for the remarkable game itself I believe that for all the talent on display and the totally enthralling game, the occasion got to the players at times. Both teams wobbled, chances were missed and poor options taken just to show that they are human. Cricket? Bloody hell – to pinch a quote that someone famous once said about another sport. The emotion at the conclusion was laid bare for all to see.
I finally arrived home in the Bay of Plenty at 2am. Sleep – you must be joking.
Roll on Sunday.
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