Cricket: Whole team has new self belief - McMillan

By Chris Barclay

Eden Park could not have provided a more appropriate launching pad for New Zealand's departure to the cricket World Cup.

The irony was certainly not lost on Craig McMillan as he sat gazing down on the oddly configured arena.

After all it was where his international career and the Black Caps' World Cup prospects appeared to realign on February 18.

This summer Eden Park has encapsulated all that was captivating and cringeworthy about the Black Caps.

McMillan lived through it all, taking body blows as Sri Lanka fired New Zealand out for 73, of which he contributed a face-saving unbeaten 29 on January 6.

On his next visit to Eden Park he turned the tables, bruising Australian egos when plundering their Cup-bound attack with a blistering 52 off 30 balls.

His cameo helped engineer a pursuit of 337 -- the Black Caps' biggest successful run chase until they headed down State Highway 1 two days later.

McMillan's Eden Park assault was simply a precursor to his coup de grace -- New Zealand's fastest one-day century (off 67 balls) at Seddon Park.

His eventual 117 was a driving force behind the Black Caps' stunning 350 for nine, though Brendon McCullum's unbeaten 86 included the killer blows.

"It's all been hard to envisage, a bit surreal," McMillan said.

"It started here with the scenes at Eden Park, it gave me momentum heading into that Hamilton innings.

"I always felt in control and never felt rushed. When I decided to take a big shot option it was the right option and it came off."

McMillan strode to the crease at four for 41 in the 10th over, armed with an optimism evidently not shared by a legion of onlookers.

"I've talked to a lot of people who said they either left the ground or turned off the TV," he said.

Fortunately there was no self doubt in the dressing room -- or out in the middle -- a quality McMillan believed would stand the squad in good stead in the West Indies.

"You have to have belief and if we didn't we wouldn't have won, pure and simple. We have that from one to 15 in the squad. We feel we can chase any total down."

Yet for all that tough talking, his confidence has undeniably been buckled during a turbulent decade at the top, or thereabouts.

"It was really tough being dropped (after the 2005 Chappell-Hadlee series).

"I was already out of the test team and a year out from the World Cup I didn't see a road back so it's nice to show people I belong in this squad."

It's also made those daily chores a little easier to face, like grocery shopping in Christchurch.

"The last week and a half has been amazing. People have said 'well done ... good luck for the World Cup'.

"I haven't felt a buzz like this around cricket for a couple of years."

However, the 30-year-old flavour of the month is as aware as any Black Cap how quickly it can all turn sour.

"It's something I've dealt with over a number of years," he said of the continual querying of his selection.

"Opinion can be polarised, I don't know why.

"I think I'm a pretty simple sort of bloke who goes out to enjoy his cricket and be as attacking as he can."

While the public may not understand the rationale behind some of those rushes of blood to the head, McMillan at least has the unqualified backing of coach John Bracewell.

"When Craig goes down the wicket and has a whack and it doesn't succeed, we give him the faith that he can go and do it again next time if that's what's required."

- NZPA

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