Aggression is often termed to be the most riveting part of cricket. Aggression is that aspect which makes the sport far more interesting and exciting. A key factor behind the unquestioned and unparalleled dominance of a team is said to be aggression. In the past, there have been only a handful of teams who have sternly believed in the approach of remaining aggressive and playing an exciting brand of cricket. Fair to say, they have achieved tremendous success indeed. When we talk about teams being successful, the West Indies side of the 1980’s comes to our mind. That marauding batting lineup with the likes of Haynes, Greenidge and Richards simply mauled bowlers. And what about that terrorizing bowling attack, which sent shivers down the spines of batsmen.
But one side, to which the term “most successful” is associated with, is the Australian side which was led by none other than the enigmatic Steve Waugh! Aggression is an integral aspect of the game and no doubts linger over it. But utilizing that aggression in the most efficient and productive way is the most significant ingredient for success. Steve Waugh’s side was surely the best side to have played the sport. When we mention sport, we mainly consider Test cricket, the ultimate form of cricket. Under the inspiring leadership of Steve Waugh, the Australians conquered every possible opposition.
The Australians won as many as 16 consecutive Test matches between 1999 and 2001, a record in itself! In the modern day there is one side which provides viewers with the glimpses of that Australian side. It is none other than the present New Zealand side which is led by the energetic Brendon McCullum.
McCullum’s team might not have achieved even half the success of Waugh’s team, but the Blackcaps have already shown positive signs of their abilities. The Kiwis are currently redefining the way in which the game is played. Apart from aggression, it is their passion and love for the game which is making them loved by the viewers. The Blackcaps were a side which was completely written off a few years ago. But once McCullum took control, the fortunes simply changed! It was as if a new-fangled New Zealand side had emerged.
McCullum and his boys have drawn several parallels with that Australian side of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. First and foremost, it’s been the leaders who made all the difference to the side. Steve Waugh was one individual who stringently believed in leading from the front and by example. As a captain, Waugh averaged 52.30 with the bat and notched up as many as 15 tons. McCullum too is among those who leads from the front. The Kiwi heartthrob averages 47.75 with the bat and plays at a strike rate of almost 70. And not to forget that Brendon has two double tons, a triple ton and a 195 off 134 balls to his name since the last 18 months.
Scoring at a quick rapid rate is another factor which makes the current New Zealand side the most exciting one. Against England at Headingley in the previous test match, the Kiwis scored 454 at almost 5 runs per over in their second innings! Now that is some seriously hard hitting statement. Against Pakistan in Sharjah last year, the Kiwis aided by McCullum’s double century scored 690 at 4.81 runs per over! Against the visiting Sri Lankans, New Zealand made 441 at 5.13 runs per over. It was an innings, in which McCullum scored 195 off just 134 balls. Playing with a strike rate of 145.5 is something which is great even in T20s.
A vital element behind New Zealand success has been the aggression and backing of their pace bowlers. Like that dominant Australian side, the present Kiwi side too is blessed with some genuine pacers who can wreck batsmen apart. The new ball pair of Southee and Boult has troubled every single opposition. They have made the batsmen dance to their tunes. Like McGrath and Damien Fleming back then, Southee and Boult have formed a formidable partnership which can take wickets at will. The field arrangement made by McCullum for these pacers is very similar to Steve Waugh’s field settings. Like Waugh, McCullum too places as many as 7 fielders close to the bat. The Kiwi captain often places five slips and a gully to go with a short leg.
Another similarity worth noting between the two sides is the contribution of the wicketkeepers. For the Aussies, Adam Gilchrist was a brute force. Gilly single handedly changed the course of the match in Australia’s favour. Gilchrist was surely the best wicketkeeper batsman in test matches. His destruction was too hot to handle. For the Blackcaps, BJ Watling has done a fantastic job. Watling is just a junior as compared to Gilchrist, but like the latter, Watling too has done wonders for his side. Watling has time and again come up with memorable performances.
Now jumping on to the most imperative aspect – success. The Australians rewrote record books with their stellar performances.16 consecutive test wins is something which will never be achieved in the future. The Kangaroos won everywhere across the globe and were dynamic. The Kiwis surely have found an inch of that success. The men in black have not lost a single test series since the last two years! They last lost to England in 2013. Now, in the same part of the world, they drew with the hosts. In between, they defeated India at home 1-0; whitewashed Sri Lanka; defeated West Indies at home and away; drew 1-1 with Pakistan in UAE and finally drew 1-1 with England! That is simply commendable.
As of now, the signs shown by this New Zealand side are optimistic. It will be really interesting to follow their journey ahead. If they play in the same manner and style, then only glory awaits them.