Sunday, July 14, 2019

World Cup Final - England vs New Zealand: End of a 44 year wait!

In 44 years of World Cup history, neither England nor New Zealand have won an ICC World Cup.

It is quite fitting that these two teams are there in the final given that one of them is a team built by Brendon McCullum and the other is a team inspired by Brendon McCullum.

Here's a look at both ...

ENGLAND

England have played 3 finals in 1979, 1987, and 1992. Lost all three to West Indies, Australia, and Pakistan respectively.

This is their first final in 27 years. While Pakistan fans have churned out similarity after similarity with their 1992 campaign, it is in fact England who have made this their own 1992.

The kits. The Final. The hope for a different result!



Jofra Archer was not even born the last time England played a World Cup Final.

Ben Stokes was yet to turn 1! Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Joe Root, and Jos Buttler had only celebrated their 1st birthday. Mark Wood and Chris Woakes had celebrated their 2nd. Their captain, Eoin Morgan, was 5 years old.

An entire English generation has grown up without knowing what a strong ODI unit looks like.

But this World Cup was different than any other for them.

England started the World Cup as favorites; and here they are, in the final.

For the past 4 years they have set the world of white ball cricket alight. No one has batted like them, no one has attacked like them, no one has posted the kind scores they have.

For them it has been a true turnaround story after the disaster that was 2015.

A World Cup win will give their story the best ending possible.

There will be books, movies, documentaries, maybe even business school case studies on this turnaround.

For most of the tournament they have looked like the best team on show. There were hiccups on the way. A loss to Pakistan despite a wonderful chase set up by Root and Buttler, an embarrassing loss to Sri Lanka, and even one to Australia.

But like their turnaround story of the past 4 years, England turned it around in this World Cup as well.

They look like the best ODI unit on show. They are the world's number 1 ranked ODI team. They are on the brink of their first ever World Cup win!

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand, always the underdogs, but also always the team to watch out for in tournaments like the World Cup, have been a mixed bag.

They have looked like a champion team against the likes of Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. They have looked like the worst team on show against Pakistan, Australia, and England.

They have also had lucky escapes against Bangladesh, South Africa, and West Indies.

5 straight wins and then 3 losses to the 'stronger' teams, and majority of the world felt like New Zealand did not deserve to be there in the final four.

Especially when they were the only semi finalist who had not won a single game against the other semi finalists. And also because teams like Pakistan and Bangladesh looked stronger than them.

But the semi final victory over India has made everyone sit up, notice, and take back their words.

Including me.

Like England, New Zealand too have made this their own 1992. The lucky 4th team to qualify for the semi finals, then beating the team that topped the league stage in the semi final, to play England in the Final!

But were those wins against Bangladesh, South Africa, and West Indies lucky? Or were New Zealand just better at holding their nerves and handling the pressure, like they were against India in the semi final?

Against all these teams, New Zealand got themselves into a winning position, then let the game slide away with the other team in front and about to win, and then came back to snatch victory out of no where when all seemed lost.

While England have had a 4-year turnaround, New Zealand have seen multiple turnarounds in single matches.

In my view, Kane Williamson is the best captain in the cricket world today. It is he, his tactics, his collected calmness, that has brought New Zealand this far.

It will be he who will be at the forefront if New Zealand are to cross this final hurdle.


For one set of fans -  England's or New Zealand's - a 44 year wait will end tonight!

Kane Williamson is like everyone's favorite kid. Everyone is rooting for him to lift the trophy. I will too be delighted if he does.

While for England, it will be like the cherry on top of their remarkable 4-year run. One of the best 4-year turnaround story in sports. I'll be happy for them too if they win.

It is really a win-win situation.

May the best team win. And may we witness a cracker of a game!  

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