Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has admitted that his team will be the “perennial dark horse” in the 2015 World Cup.
McCullum is also aware that New Zealand have reached the semi-finals on six different occasions, but have never once managed to go on to play in the final.
However, McCullum is eager to put an end to that and even took the entire Blackcaps team to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which will host the final of next year’s World Cup, in an attempt to inspire them.
“It is great to be back,” McCullum said. “There’s nothing on event-wise today but with an eye to what may lie ahead in a few months’ time it’s nice to be able to bring some of the boys who haven’t experienced the G before and show them around. It’s a nice opportunity prior to the season kicking off.
“We’ve had some good teams which have turned up at World Cups and major events and done okay. No doubt we’ll head into this tournament as the perennial dark horse…The World Cup is obviously a very important event, but we’re also trying to build something that lasts decades rather than necessarily one definitive moment, which can come down to a bit of luck as well.”
McCullum also recalled how daunting it was to come on as a substitute when he was just 21 in front of a packed MCG crowd.
“I remember dropping a catch here when it was a full house and Michael Bevan got a hundred,” he said. “I was only about 21 years of age. Stephen Fleming was captain at the time and he moved me from cover down to third man, where the biggest crowd was. That wasn’t an overly memorable moment, but something that’s very hard to forget.
“It is a great place to play. It’s one of the iconic sports stadiums around the world. It would be nice to come back here with a full house come World Cup time.”
However, before they can start thinking about the World Cup, New Zealand will play South Africa later this month before travelling to the United Arab Emirates to face Pakistan in December. They will then return home and square off against Sri Lanka and Pakistan before the World Cup gets underway.
“One of our keys heading into the World Cup is making sure we’ve performed between now and then,” McCullum said. “Over the last 12 to 18 months we’ve taken some significant steps forward as a team, especially in the Test arena but also in one-day cricket. But for us to be a real threat at the World Cup we need to ensure we’re still progressing as we enter it.
“[Head coach Mike Hesson] has had a huge role in that. He’s a meticulous planner and a behind-the-scenes communicator. His preparation is outstanding as a coach. I think he’s probably the new breed of coach, in terms of not necessarily someone that is overly focal from a team point of view but works very hard behind the scenes and pulls a lot of things together.
“You could couple that with a very good selection team as well – him and Bruce Edgar have pretty much made every selection work for us. They’ve got a nice dynamic. Also … we’ve got a massive support staff which Mike has employed, and he’s not too proud to [not] employ cricketers who have higher profiles than he does. It’s a measure of the man that he’s prepared to do so. We’ve got a nice group behind the scenes, now we just need to make sure we get some silverware.”