It’s not often that you have opposing captains agree on something on the eve of a big final. But in Johannesburg, Ricky Ponting and Daniel Vettori were clear about one thing: This is the best edition of the Champions Trophy they had played in.
“It’s been an excellent tournament, the best and most enjoyable Champions Trophy I’ve played in. To have the best eight teams, over a shorter period of time... People in this country and all over the world have enjoyed the one-day cricket played over the last couple of weeks,” said ponting. “These events are about showcasing the game, and the ICC and the players have done a terrific job of making this tournament a spectacle for the 50-over game.”
“I’ve said all along that every game has mattered, and that is the most important thing,” explained Vettori. “The reason people were getting tired of the one-day game was that there were a lot of irrelevant games, and that hasn’t happened here.”
If every game has mattered, then the one that matters the most is upon us. While the Australia-New Zealand rivalry does not have the sentimentality and jingoism that surrounds an India-Pakistan encounter, the trans-Tasman rivalry is one that has plenty of history.
In their own corner of the world, the two island nations have been at it in an idiosyncratic manner. While New Zealand have a small pool of talent to choose from, they have never been short on will. Australia, a land that celebrates the great outdoors, has always prided itself on its sporting achievements.
While New Zealand have had more than their fair share of injury troubles, they have found a way to win games, their effort against Pakistan being a case in point. Australia have gone from strength to strength, being unbeaten so far. Either way, the tournament is ready to crown its first repeat winner, providing the rains that have hung ominously around stay away.
In a way, New Zealand’s journey has mirrored the unflagging nature of their industrious and hard working captain. Daniel Vettori has not just been the driving force behind the bowling, but has promoted himself up the order to take the game by the horns with his batting when required. Now he stands one match away from glory and the man in his way is another inspirational leader.
While Ricky Ponting has not nurtured the kind of aura and sophistication Steve Waugh had, he has undeniably led from the front with his batting, saving the best for the big games. Whether he can stretch his dominance one more game, or submit to the law of averages, could well decide how Monday’s final pans out.