Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum leads his men into battle against Australia today in a historic Cricket World Cup final. But first, he writes an exclusive, moving letter to Herald on Sunday readers and fans everywhere.
Today's World Cup Final highlights just how special the game of cricket is for New Zealanders. Never before have I seen the game and the Black Caps embraced so enthusiastically by our own. All over the country, our team has received incredible support - and I want you to know it's this sense of belonging that we take into the final today. What's our motivation? Our motivation is to play for you.
Make no mistake, we've felt your belief. We've heard the chants, the cheers and the roars. We've seen the emotion in the faces of the children; in the faces of the mums and dads, and the grandfathers and grandmothers. We've seen grown men in tears; we've seen strangers hugging and we've seen the elderly dancing. I'm not sure how to say this but we've never felt quite so "New Zealand" in all our lives.
The feeling in the camp ahead of today's showdown is as calm and collected as we can manage. Having our partners, wives and families with us throughout the tournament has helped maintain an air of normality in the camp, and that's helped keep things grounded. Our mission is simply to give the best performance we can, and leave everything on the field. No one can be expected to do more than that, and no one will be asked.
Yes, the result today will be enormous. But beyond that, the success of this tournament will be seen in the ongoing popularity of the game. The early signs are that, because of this World Cup, there will be more New Zealanders playing, watching and supporting cricket, that more people will be considering and discussing the game - and that's something we should all be excited about. The legacy from this event will live on for decades.
We've already seen evidence of this with the crowds around the country, the well-wishers and the media attention. Registrations on our new website: myblackcaps.co.nz - where you can get all the inside oil on our team - have sky-rocketed beyond expectation. As I write this in my Melbourne hotel room, supporters are gathering outside waiting for a glimpse of our players. Something very special is happening.
This is a good chance for me to say to everyone, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you to the fans for giving us such encouragement; thank you to the World Cup volunteers for all your hard work; to the World Cup organisers for putting together such a fantastic event, and to everyone else involved in making this such a successful time.
But mostly, can I just say thank you to New Zealand - for being there with us today.