Skill and resolve hold the key to trove of treasures
Of the teams lining up in this first semi, it must be harder for the Kiwis, writes John Wright.india Updated: Apr 24, 2007 17:08 IST
Semifinal games are hard. They impose on both teams a pressure only experienced in this competition and the ICC Champions Trophy. Lose and you have to go home. Carrying the excess baggage of the dreams you have harboured for four years and the knowledge that you haven't played that badly to make it this far.
Of the teams lining up in this first semifinal, it must be harder for the Kiwis. They have never won before. They could become like the teams I played in, consigned to the dustbin of history, described as good but not good enough. It would mean so much to the players now to be a member of the team that won the Cup first.
To be the first is to be remembered, maybe even revered, and that is not a common fate for a cricketer in New Zealand. We can walk down any street and no one bats an eye. The more I think about this first semifinal, the more it boils down to resolve and skills. I am sure the Black Caps have the resolve, but do they have the skills? Murali, Vaas, Malinga & Co, with their red-hot fielding unit, will pounce on any shortcomings in their batting. The Sri Lankans have the overall advantage but do they have that resolve, particularly if the Kiwis can apply extra pressure early on?
As an ex-coach, I get down to asking myself what is more valuable — skills or resolve? In truth, it is dangerous to generalise. There are players in both teams — Murali and Bond to begin with — who have both qualities.
Even after their soft defeat against the Aussies, I am confident the Kiwis by and large have the resolve. I do have some concerns about the opening bowlers to partner Bond and know that, when it comes to facing and getting runs against Vaas, Malinga and Murali, you need both.
The final factor is the wicket. Early on, there was a bit of bounce, though I didn't see much turn. On paper, the match will come down to New Zealand's batting line up versus Sri Lanka's bowling and fielding. If Sri Lanka bat first (and they will if Fleming wins the toss), they will be very hard to beat if they get anything over 230. If Bond gets through them early, it will be the best route for New Zealand to the final.
Overall, the question mark that remains over Sri Lanka is their ability to hang tough. I am of the school which believes resolve, with a bit of skill, can get you further than anyone thinks, and skill without resolve is just a dead-end street.