Place a bunch of essentially different people together you’ll see how differently they react to dire situations, take the coronavirus-induced pandemic for example. Some have gone insane staying indoors, some are just enjoying their extended lifestyle and the rest are simply bored.
And now, think about the Black Caps. The World Cup was gone, second in a row for New Zealand, and yes the Black Caps weren’t smiling at the face of the Lord’s. After all, a heart was broken and who has the guts to smile through a heartbreak that tears you apart, anyway? But New Zealand, as essentially breezy as they are, learned how to cope with situations like when the world falls apart for them. And now, the world has literally fallen or come to a standstill, whichever way one wants to put it. Countries are under lockdown, all sports have been put on a halt and there’s no idea about when or how this unforeseen nightmare ever ends. But if it ever does, New Zealand and its cricketers will end up coming out fine.
We are all aware of how little Test cricket New Zealand play and that takes me back to a long conversation I had the honour of having with BJ Watling, who is not a part of the limited-overs setup and faces long hiatus before Test cricket resumes again for the Black Caps. But, every time, he turns out fine and in form, which is a huge advantage for the team. When asked how he copes with the gaps, Watling told SportsCafe, ”I don’t mind having those gaps but I also don’t want them to be long. I got a two-year old boy at home and it is nice to spend some time with your family in the winters but yeah I think you obviously want to play as much cricket as possible but I do try and enjoy my time away from it and try relaxing and getting fit for my next assignment.”
And now, the whole of New Zealand cricket has to wait until their next assignment. But the global numbers of the Coronavirus casualties are rising higher by the day. The last One Day International that was played before the coronavirus pandemic shut all cricket was the one, in Sydney, between Australia and New Zealand. The match, held on March 13, was played amidst the Kane Richardson scare and in front of empty stands. However, fortunately, the cricketer was tested negative. Even New Zealand pacer Lockie Ferguson, who did participate in the first ODI, was kept in isolation but was later tested negative. However, immediately after, the series was called off and New Zealand cricketers left for home and decided to stay in self-isolation for two weeks.
On March 15, the Wellington Firebirds were declared champions of the Plunkett Shield for the first time in 16 years but unfortunately, the players couldn’t lift the trophy and celebrate together. In fact, the players were informed about the win only via a WhatsApp group message which read that the last two rounds of the competition had been cancelled as a precaution against the Covid-19 pandemic. New Zealand Cricket CEO, David White also revealed, on March 16, about the suspension of all club competitions around the country would still go ahead as per schedule only to be cancelled two days later.
In fact, New Zealand also faced the indefinite suspension of major leagues, starting from Super Rugby to the Hockey Pro League and all community sports as well. That’s almost the story of all major sports playing nations. But on the political front, they also have a leader like Jacinda Ardern who gets going when the journey gets tough. Like she acted at the fallout of the gruesome Christchurch mosque attack in 2019, Ardern's was once again swift and alert and yet so humane.
On March 21, she implemented the Alert System for controlling the spread of the Coronavirus. As of now, New Zealand still has a relatively low number of coronavirus cases, with 76 confirmed cases and nine probable cases with eight people in hospitals across the country. A total of 37 individuals had now recovered. The country, with a reasonably small population, has everything in place to fight the unprecedented disaster. Whether its enough or not is a question that only time can answer.
But coming back to cricket, New Zealand will be able to deal with the long gap that’s ahead of them. Of course, they had a whole plan scheduled ahead of the T20 World Cup, that’s originally scheduled for October this year and to be hosted by Australia. They would’ve taken a long trip of Europe to play nations like Netherlands, Scotland and a well-defined tour of Ireland. If you believe Kane Williamson’s side couldn’t win that in their sleep, I’d say you are wrong.
Then they’d move on to the Caribbean and play the Windies. But how is that not inconsequential with respect to what happens in Australia during the ICC mega event. This is considering that the T20 World Cup even gets carried out as planned. All things considered, New Zealand and its people will turn out fine. They lost two World Cup finals in a row but they are lined up for a battle they are going to win. I mean, think about a Daniel Vettori coming back from retirement to play the 2015 World Cup and doing great or a lost Jimmy Neesham being found again in 2019. So believe me when I say this, breezy is the new strong.
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