World Cup, New Zealand vs Australia: Battle for the bragging rights

  • AP, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Updated: Feb 28, 2015 01:38 IST

Australia and New Zealand players are trying to tone down the rhetoric around their impending clash at the Cricket World Cup, stressing that the hype around Saturday's game is attaching too much importance to a pool match.

The showdown between the co-hosts and co-favorites has been billed as the biggest one-day international in New Zealand in two decades.

Australia's opening batsman David Warner stoked the fire when he said New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was prone to "brain explosions" and challenged the Auckland crowd to do its worst.

Warner has seemed to relish the public enemy role, and is the current totem for Australia's reputation for using verbal intimidation - 'sledging' - to combat opposing players.

However New Zealand veteran Dan Vettori, playing at his fifth World Cup, said that reputation is "a little bit overstated."

"In 18 years I can't remember being sledged by an Australian team," Vettori said Thursday.

"The way it's portrayed is not quite right. It's more about the physical contest; that's what the guys get excited about."

While Warner sought to distract McCullum with his pre-match comments, Australian paceman Josh Hazlewood was more respectful, saying the New Zealand skipper was the key to the game.

Hazlewood said Australia's bowlers, some of whom had played against McCullum in the Indian Premier League, would devise strategies to counter his power-hitting. McCullum is particularly threatening at Eden Park, which has abnormally short straight boundaries, and Australia must find a way to counter that.

"You're hoping he doesn't hit it straight back at you for starters," Hazlewood. "He's a dangerous player who goes about his business differently to a lot of other openers.

"McCullum at the top of order is key. We want to minimize the damage he can do."

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said his players were not about to take Warner's bait and become distracted by a verbal battle.

"Some teams go down that path more than others but in recent times we haven't gone down that path," Hesson said. "We deal with plenty of sides that provide that (sledging) and we tend to go about our work. We don't get too caught up in that sort of stuff.

"We're pretty respectful of our opposition and we're competitive but we pretty much focus on our own job."

While Saturday's match will carry huge interest as a clash between two of the World Cup's strongest sides, it is only a pool game, and both have ambitions that go well beyond that.

"World Cup semifinals are the biggest games I've played in," Vettori said. "And I've been involved in a Champions Trophy final. It's just how much is on it. The knockout stage is where it really matters."

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