New Zealand lost one and won one warm-up game before Champions Trophy. (Source: Reuters)
Recounting his early memories of cricket in New Zealand, Shane Bond said that it was a great spectacle and he was hooked to cricket since he a kid. He recalled Australia being a tough team to beat, especially from the mid-90s, as they became a dominant force in that period.
“From whenever I can recall, Australia have been such a tough team to beat. They won the ICC Cricket World Cup 1987, but really started to dominate the game from the mid-1990s. New Zealand beat them a bit in the early 90s, but from the mid-90s, Australia became a dominant global force,” he wrote in his ICC column.
Calling the relationship between the two countries as ‘brotherly’, Bond added that New Zealand have always seen Australia as the greatest rival and biggest challenge to overcome.
“Perhaps because we are geographically distant from the rest of the world but are proximal to each other, and perhaps because we are sometimes considered the little brother, New Zealand have always seen Australia as the greatest rival and the biggest challenge to overcome, no matter the sport. There’s a natural sporting rivalry, whether it be cricket or rugby,” he wrote.
Recalling his own battles with the Aussies, including the final of the ICC Champions Trophy in 2009, Bond said that his team thought Shane Watson and Cameron White took it away from them.
“We thought we had a sniff when we picked up a couple of early wickets, but Shane Watson batted beautifully for his hundred and Cameron White made some runs, and from then on, it was pretty much one-way traffic,” he said.
About the current Australia squad which will play the Champions Trophy in England, Bond called them one of the favourites.
“When I look at this current Australia side with their batting firepower and their pace-bowling resources, it is difficult not to see them as one of the favourites. One of the things that makes them so hard to beat, obviously, is just the sheer talent in their ranks,” he wrote.
Bond also said that Australia have been the most team in the tournament and it is tough and uncompromising. About New Zealand, he said that they have played well but most of the success has come in home conditions.
“I am under no illusion that it is going to be tough. There is no real secret to felling Australia; it necessitates you taking wickets against the top-order and putting pressure on the middle-order. Australia bat long and strong. If you are not taking wickets, you can end up in a lot of trouble. And when we bat, we need to begin well and get off to a good start, because we are also heavy on batting and there are a lot of all-rounders in the side.
“To me, the one worrying thing is that while Australia has a pretty settled team, I don’t get the sense that New Zealand know what its best line-up is. We played well during our summer at home, going down to South Africa but then bouncing back to beat Australia,” he said.
Bond questioned New Zealand’s batting line-up and who will be the wicketkeeper-batsman and the all-rounders in the tournament
“But who will be our keeper-batter? Will it be Luke Ronchi, who has been asked to fulfil that role in tournaments in the past and hasn’t exactly fulfilled his role, or will it be Tom Latham, who has made a lot of runs in Ireland but doesn’t have the most intimidating strike-rate. And then again, how much significance do you attach to the runs scored in Ireland?
“In terms of the spinners, New Zealand hasn’t played the leg-spinner (Ish Sodhi), I feel it has been a bit conservative in its selection and that’s probably the aspect that is the most concerning. I am not confident the Black Caps are quite sure which way they want to go. When you don’t know that, it can have a pretty telling knock-on effect,” he wrote.