Former Indian batsman VVS Laxman disagrees with New Zealand being given the tag of 'chokers' and believes that the Kiwis have constantly punched above their weight. New Zealand are all set to lock horns with the No.1 ranked India in the quest for achieving the winning WTC title.
South Africa are renowned in world cricket to be chokers, but the Black Caps have left no stone unturned in competing with the Proteas for the unfortunate tag. In the past decade and a half, New Zealand have continued to remain one of the most consistent and balanced sides in world cricket, but ICC trophies have continued to elude them. The Kiwis have lost two successive ICC World Cup finals against Australia and England in 2015 and 2019 respectively, and they have been knocked out in the semis nine times in total, across ICC tournaments.
Ahead of the WTC Final against India, the Kiwis' 'chokers' tag has been in focus, but legendary Indian cricketer VVS Laxman has refused to accept the tag. Laxman believes that the Kiwis have always been a team who have punched above their weight, and thus it is not fair to criticise them for their shortcomings.
“Personally, I don’t think that they are chokers. I played for Otago in a first-class match before our Test series in 2009 and was amazed to see how their first-class cricket is not as professional as what we have in India, Australia or in England. Even though they have very limited resources, the way they maximise the potential they have and always perform to the best of their abilities and remain so consistent over so many years is a remarkable achievement,” Laxman told Sportstar.
"And it clearly shows how mentally tough they are, and how much they appreciate each and every opportunity they get at the highest level. I have huge respect for the New Zealanders because they punch above their weight and always try to maximise the opportunity and the potential they have at their disposal."
Currently, New Zealand are engaged with England in the two-match Test series and many experts find it as a preparation advantage over India, who recently arrived in Southampton and are undergoing soft quarantine. But despite the evident lack of match practice, Laxman feels that India cannot be counted out or under-estimated, purely because of the resilience they've shown of late.
“Well, theoretically, that's an advantage for New Zealand, because whenever you play any Test match in overseas conditions, you at least would like to play one if not two (practice) matches before the main match. There’s no doubt it helps you to get acclimatised to the conditions. That’s always been the norm for so many years,” said Laxman.
“But India has not taken a backward step, irrespective of whatever challenges they have faced. The series win in Australia was a testament to their character and their positive mindset. Irrespective of all the challenges, they went on to win the series in such an emphatic manner,” he added.
Experts have touted India as the favourites to lift the trophy, while some believe that New Zealand will upset the top-ranked team in the title-clash. Laxman, however, has a completely different viewpoint and believes that the game will sway in favor of the team that bats first.
“I believe that both teams are evenly matched. I believe that because this is a one-off match and not a series, whichever team bats well in the first innings, will have the edge and that side will dictate the terms throughout the match," the 46-year-old said.
The World Test Championship final will commence on June 18 and will be played at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton. The game, as revealed by the ICC, will be having a reserve day, should rain play spoilsport and not allow the teams to get in the allocated overs.