Kolkata: The All Blacks, New Zealand’s reigning world champions in rugby, were easily their biggest sporting brand over the years - but the Black Caps seem to be catching up fast now.
The country with a population of five million, which prides itself on it’s sporting culture, stood as one on Thursday morning (local time) to cheer the cricket team becoming world champions in Test cricket - and leading it were none other than Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Sir Richard Hadlee, arguably their greatest cricketer.
“The Black Caps have made New Zealand proud. This was a masterful performance from a team at the top of their game and on top of the world,” Ardern said in a statement.
“Kane Williamson and the team leadership have built a brilliant and humble squad who have become an inspiration to many New Zealanders.
“Over a number of years, now we have seen the development of a team and team culture that has taken New Zealand cricket to world beating heights.”
New Zealand have been to the semi-final of the 50-over World Cup eight times and lost the last two finals, in heartbreaking fashion to England on the boundary countback rule after the 2019 decider was tied.
Throughout those setbacks, New Zealand have continued to play in a spirit sometimes derided as “nice guys” of cricket.
Hadlee, one of the greatest allrounders in the history of the game, said the New Zealand Test team “thoroughly deserved” the title on the back of their recent form.
“Over the past two years, the Black Caps’ performances in the Test arena have been outstanding with Test match and series wins at home and abroad,” the 69-year-old said in a statement.
“The whole team has shown a high degree of professionalism. Their skill sets have complemented each other to make them a complete playing unit.
“It’s fair to say that this current group of players is the best in our history.”
A somewhat relieved and satisfied Williamson said after the final: “Its certainly a slightly different feeling being on the right side of the result.”
“It was the first official World Test Championship, thats a really good feeling. Both teams knew coming into the last day there were three possible results - win, lose or draw and we saw that things could happen quickly.”
An unbeaten winning partnership of 96 was finally compiled under bright sunlight by Williamson and New Zealand’s highest Test runscorer Ross Taylor (47 not out) who fought hard after openers Tom Latham and Devon Conway fell in quick succession to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.