Ever since the World Cup kicked off in 1975, New Zealand have never been among the favourites to win the prestigious tournament. Yet, in the first 10 editions, they progressed to the final four before bowling. Nobody held it against them since the Kiwis weren't expected to make it that far in most of the editions. They outdid themselves on most occasions, and upset a couple of favourites to progress in the final four. Eventually though they bowed out with a more talented side getting the better of them in the semis. In that sense, their 2015 World Cup campaign has been very un-New Zealand like. In fact, they even headed into the tournament as one of the favourites.
A lot of factors have combined to culminate in an unforgettable World Cup performance from New Zealand. And, the change has begun right from the top. Brendon McCullum's leadership with the bat has been sensational. In fact, his bravado with the willow has been the epitome of New Zealand's aggressive World Cup campaign. His fearless batting has instilled fear in the minds of the opponents, and his stroke play has been a treat to watch. McCullum has been a game changer on more than one occasion with the bat, none bigger that the semis in which New Zealand were facing a daunting target. Irrespective of the match situation, he has gone out and attacked, which has been refreshing to watch.
Being aggressive is only one aspect that has been responsible for New Zealand's stunning turnaround in fortunes. This time, they have also been blessed with some exceptional talent in both the batting and bowling department. Trent Boult has been a standout performer with his pace and movement, and not surprisingly is the leading wicket-taker in the current edition. He has found some excellent support from Tim Southee as well. Though the latter has been expensive, as a combination, Boult and Southee have proved to be mighty effective.
One hugely impressive aspect of New Zealand's performance in the World Cup has been that different players have risen to the occasion under challenging circumstances. When Brendon McCullum failed against Bangladesh and West Indies, Martin Guptill stood up; his double hundred against West Indies was stunning in every sense. In the semis, McCullum fired again, but he did not stay long enough to take the game out of South Africa's grasp. Under pressure, Grant Elliott and Corey Anderson delivered to become unlikely heroes for the side. The list of honour would be incomplete without the mention of veteran Daniel Vettori. He has stood up with the ball, and pulled off that stunning catch as well.
New Zealand head into the final on an unbeaten note having overcome every obstacle in their way. They will be at a slight disadvantage in the final since they have played all their matches in New Zealand so far. But, now that they have progressed to the pinnacle, their aim should be to go out an enjoy the atmosphere at the hallowed MCG on Sunday. Progressing to the finals is a massive achievement in itself for the Kiwis. Till a couple of years back, no one gave them a chance at the World Cup. And now, here they are, against all odds, in the final of the biggest showpiece event in cricket, led by a man whose batting has brought unbridled joy. This has truly been cricket's Cinderella story!
--By A Cricket Analyst