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Why New Zealand’s victory at the WTC final is perfect for the game of cricket

In life and in sport, losses hurt. They hurt even more when victory is within touching distance and the mind starts fantasizing about glory. In the recently concluded World Test Championship final, India were handed a comprehensive eight wicket defeat at the hands of New Zealand - a nation where cricket loses the popularity contest to rugby.

I was supporting India intensely in the match but by the time the final runs were scored by Ross Taylor, my heart did not sink. I felt comforted that the Kiwis had finally scaled the final summit by winning a world title. I smiled knowing that a country, which has a pool of just 25-30 good cricketers (and just six domestic teams) to choose from, showed the world that impossible is nothing.

They had lost the 2015 World Cup final and they were robbed in the 2019 World Cup final. A weaker team may have folded and let the heartbreak wreak havoc on their morale. Instead, they emerged stronger from those losses and finished a crucial Test where only three and a half day’s play was possible.

A lot of credit must go to the system – which has helped elevate the team from unpredictable laggards to consistent world beaters. Their coach Gary Stead, their captain Kane Williamson and their entire support staff deserves credit for keeping the focus on basics and upholding the ‘play hard, play fair’ philosophy.

They have characters like Kyle Jamieson – a tearaway fast bowler who started out as a batsman. He averages a scary 14.16 in Tests and took the key wicket of Virat Kohli in both the innings of the WTC final. He is fierce, he is humble and he is loyal to the nation. During the IPL, Jamieson slotted in some red ball practice in his routine. His captain Virat Kohli told him that he’ll be glad to face him in the nets. Jamieson refused immediately, knowing fully well that his deliveries needed an element of surprise in the final.

Kane Williamson – the less said about him the better. A tireless batsman, an astute tactician and a wonderful leader, Williamson is a superstar without the arrogance. He has transformed the Kiwis from an aggressive and unpredictable side to a consistent and cohesive team. Every player punches above their weight and that translates into results.

With their victory, we hope that the team now gets to play more Test matches. A couple of Test matches against top sides like India and England isn’t enough to whet a cricket lover’s appetite. They’ve earned the right to consider themselves as one of the big boys of the modern game and every effort should be made to let them maintain that stature.

As for India, the road to the next World Test Championship final is long and hard but they’ve shown that they are made of steely resolve. They have plenty of scores to settle against England in away conditions. They were handed comprehensive defeats in their last couple of tours there and the entire team would be looking forward to change the story this time.

Perhaps the decision to not play an extra seamer or the decision to not play a warm-up match against Ireland will leave them with regrets. Perhaps the collapse on Day 6 of the final will leave them with fresh wounds. There are a lot of things they could have done differently but cricket is not a game of ifs and buts. It is a game where every day is an opportunity to redeem oneself. There is a lot of matches yet to be played, a lot of mountains yet to be conquered and a lot of naysayers yet to be silenced.

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