Midweek fixture with Dylan Cleaver: The secret to the Black Caps' success

New Zealand players celebrate dismissal of Pakistan's Khalid Latif. photo / AP
New Zealand players celebrate dismissal of Pakistan's Khalid Latif. photo / AP

Ego is a fascinating concept as it relates to high-performance sport.

The accepted wisdom is that all great sportsmen and women have to have a high-degree of ego to be successful in such an on-the-edge environment.

Yet you watch how the Black Caps have turned themselves into the most consistent short-format team we've ever produced, and you come to the conclusion that they've done it in large part because they've managed to either suppress or strip away the individual ego. They live that mantra that there is no 'I' in team.

If you're in the media, it can get a bit tiresome: the deflection of praise, the downplaying of individual achievement to highlight the "team effort", the All Black-like refusal to dwell on success in favour of looking ahead to the next game.

It's easier to find quotable quantity surveyors.

It's working though. Since New Year's Day, 2014, New Zealand have won 35 of 55 ODIs they have played, with three no results and a tie. That's a 64 per cent win record for a team that historically has won 44 per cent of matches played.

In the same timeframe, they have won 14 of 22 T20Is. Again, that's 64 per cent and again it's considerably higher than their overall win-record of 51 per cent.

With the shallowest talent pool of all the major nations, they have done this by defining roles and sticking to them. As counter-intuitive as this sounds, they have a team full of players willing to fail for the team.

The World T20 in India has just reinforced that.

Ross Taylor, one of the better strokemakers in New Zealand cricket history, is prepared to play the closer's role, where he's seldom going to get the chance to build big, headline-grabbing innings.

Elliott is happy to shuffle up and down the order depending on the situation.

Even Luke Ronchi, who's form has hardly been compelling of late, is willing to try to hit sixes from ball one, knowing that every time he fails it is more ammunition for those advocating a change of wicketkeeper batsman.

This is a team where individuals appear happy to sacrifice success (if success is measured by statistics; and in cricket it usually is) for the greater good.

Who knows, perhaps Elliott went back to his hotel room this morning and emptied the mini-bar after being shuffled down to No 7, where he faced one ball and had to act as a sacrificial runner off the last ball (he somehow got home), but you doubt it.

Maybe Tim Southee and Trent Boult are secretly embarrassed to be wearing hi-vis vests on the sidelines when for so long they've been New Zealand's spearheads, but they don't show it.

New Zealand have become a genuine limited overs power and a pool play force.
There's just one hurdle to clear.

They have to win one of these things.

***

After a bold assault on the retail hell of Wairau Park on Sunday I needed some couch time and so I made my Warriors debut for 2016.

This would be the one-town, one-club Warriors (or, if you believe the marketing, one-country, one-club Warriors).

This would be the Warriors, according to owner Eric Watson, that were poised to become "the best single sporting franchise in Australasia, taking it to levels never seen before in this part of the world". The only thing they've taken to new levels seems to be the amount of kitsch jerseys they produce to gouge fans.

I wasn't thinking about jerseys when I was watching on Sunday, I was thinking something far more subversive.

Boring. That's the word that kept recurring. Boring. And the strange thing is, it's more of an affront that they are boring than that they are bad.

It should be near impossible to field a team with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson and be dull, shouldn't it?

GIVE 'EM A TASTE OF KIWI ...

After watching Nick Willis' bold run in the world indoors this week, it made me hanker for the days when the black singlet was a fixture at the front of the middle distances. Here's a quinella of John Walker magic. The 1500m gold at Montreal is shot from the infield at ground level. It really does show Walker's glorious kick and you also can't help but wonder just how good Ivo van Damme, who finished second here aged 22, would have become if he hadn't been killed in a car accident later that year.

SPORTS SHAREMARKET

I'm buying... the White Ferns
Always keen to buy stock in teams that pump Australia. They play a good brand of cricket with the bat, always looking to attack. I'm sold on this team although I would say (and this might seem hypocritical given what I'm about to say under 'I'm selling'), the overall product could really benefit from the pitch being a yard shorter. The game would be instantly more dynamic. Some of the moon balls delivered by the spinners at this tournament are a roadblock to credibility. Just a thought.

I'm selling... sexism in tennis
Like the racquet sport hasn't got more pressing things to worry about than that tired old chestnut about the men deserve more than the women. Let's count the ways this sport kills itself: match-fixing, doping, grunting, brattish and enabled 'stars', interminable baseline rallies on clay. But let's not worry about that, let's create a gender divide instead.

I'M READING ...
Sports Illustrated have revamped their Vault. That means you can spend the next few days reading the best work of Gary Smith, a long-form sports writing savant. It'd be impossible to single one piece out, but this is a good attempt as any.

MY LAST $10
I'm reaching that time again where if I don't get a collect, I'm canning this miserable black hole of a segment.
Last week: England to beat West Indies at the World T20. An outlay that should have grossed $17.50 instead was impaled on the end of Chris Gayle's bat.
This week: It's a multi with three prohibitive favourites and one slightly iffy punt. The Chiefs and Brumbies will beat the Force and Cheetahs respectively. Count on it. India will beat the Bangers in the World T20. I'm less sure of South Africa beating the surprising Windies, but I'm going for it anyway. What I'm saying is one correct guess and three dead-certs should collect $24.80.
Total spent: $80 Total collected: $39.35

Midweek Fixture will be taking a bye week and return on April 6

- NZ Herald

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