Confident McCullum hails ‘best’ NZ World Cup team


CHRISTCHURCH : Brendon McCullum hailed New Zealand’s World Cup side as the best of the four that he has played with and the captain was certain the Black Caps were well equipped to deal with the rising expectation of a maiden title.

McCullum’s side open the tournament against Sri Lanka on Saturday at Hagley Oval riding a wave of optimism not seen since the early 1990s.

Thousands of people turned out for the tournament’s opening ceremony on Thursday, while New Zealand six pool games are virtually sold out such is the feel good factor after successive series victories over Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the last six weeks.

“Certainly the ones (World Cup teams) that I’ve played in, it’s the best team and we tick most boxes,” the 33-year-old McCullum told reporters on Friday. “The style of play is something we’re comfortable with.

“We’ve got a nice mix of youth and experience and a team that I’m really comfortable taking into the World Cup and we’ll give ourselves a good chance.

“But we know the slate is clean starting tomorrow.”

New Zealand have made the semi-finals six times, but have only realistically come close to making the final twice, in 1979 and again in 1992 when a Martin Crowe-inspired team captured the imagination of the country.

The 1992 side have been prominent in the build up to this year’s tournament and have reminded the public that they had snuck up on cricket’s big guns having been hammered 3-0 by England in a series just before the World Cup.

Many pundits, however, have picked New Zealand as the third favourites behind Australia and South Africa after a succession of solid performances leading into the tournament.

Methodical coach Mike Hesson had set the team certain tasks to achieve in their matches prior to the World Cup to replicate what they may need to do during the global showpiece, such as win chasing a small total, win chasing a big total, setting a big total, defending small totals, recovering from collapses.

All had been achieved and McCullum acknowledged dealing with those scenarios had helped alleviate expectations on the team.

“It’s something we have mitigated against a little while ago” he said. “We knew that if we put in some performances beforehand then we knew that we would be able to handle it when expectations rose.

“But guys are feeling confident in the group. We have got the culture right. We’re all in the right seats in the bus heading in the right direction.

“Now it’s a matter of how we seize the opportunities we get.”