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New Zealand in ‘92 World Cup | Masterstrokes only Martin Crowe could pull off

Last updated on 23 Sep 2023 | 10:24 AM
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New Zealand in ‘92 World Cup | Masterstrokes only Martin Crowe could pull off

New Zealand had beaten England in the group stage and had Crowe captained his team against them in the final, the Kiwis could boast of a World Cup title today

After failing to qualify for the semi-finals in the previous two World Cup editions (1983 & 1987), no one pegged New Zealand as title contenders in ‘92 despite being the joint-hosts with Australia.

Another reason for such a perception was the slump in New Zealand’s home form just before the cricketing extravaganza. Led by Martin Crowe, the Kiwis would lose a home series to England 2-0, their first loss in 12 years, before getting battered 3-0 in the ODIs.

However, the ‘92 World Cup’s essence was freshness. The monotonous whites were replaced with colourful jerseys, white balls took over from the red cherry, matches were happening under floodlights and the new DL rules had players confused. 

New Zealand skipper Martin Crowe was cooking a whole new strategy as well, and he had kept it so much under wraps that some of his teammates were oblivious to it as well. 

Going down memory lane, Danny Morrison would later reveal that even he didn’t know much. “I remember talking about it in the team meeting. He didn't give too much away but he said, 'Look, we are toying with an idea of having something quite different and quite exceptional,” Morrison said during an interview with Firstpost.

New Zealand’s first match was against defending champions and arch-rivals Australia, and the Kiwis would stun all at Eden Park. After Crowe’s ton and Ken Rutherford’s fifty helped them set a target of 249, opening the balling with off-spinner Dipak Patel changed the game.

No team had dared to open with a spinner with the World Cup at stake before, and fortune favoured the bold this time. The slower and lower wickets of the rugby field transformed into a cricket one found Australia struggling, and before they knew they were 199/6. Barring David Boon (100), no one turned up and New Zealand defeated the defending champions by 37 runs in the opener.

Acting as the coach-cum captain for New Zealand, Martin Crowe had the entire strategy in his head. He would have different roles for different guys with Chris Harris bowling a lot while Gavin Harris and Rod Latham chipping in at times. Patel didn’t open with the ball at all times, while wicket-keeper Ian Smith was seen standing very close to the stumps owing to the slow wickets.

Crowe was masterminding the whole thing and before anyone knew, the Kiwi had beaten Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, Zimbabwe, India and England to reach the semi-finals. Yet another surprise during the group stages was the introduction of pinch-hitter Mark Greatbatch as an opener.

Greatbatch wasn’t even in New Zealand playing eleven in their previous match against Sri Lanka but was seen opening the innings alongside Rod Latham in the match against South Africa. After the Proteas were limited to just 190 runs, the Kiwis would chase down the target in 35 overs with Greatbatch scoring a quick 68 runs, having hit nine boundaries and two sixes.

New Zealand’s only loss in the group stages had come against Pakistan, who had miraculously reached the semis despite losing three and drawing one of their eight group matches. The two teams would face again in the semi-finals.

Batting first in Auckland, a lucky ground for the Kiwis that World Cup, the hosts had settled down well after a shaky start. Banking on Crowe’s hard-fought 91 and Rutherford’s half-century, they had set a seemingly winning target of 263.

Their only drawback was an injured Crowe who had decided to sit out during the second innings with the experienced John Wright leading the side. Little did he know that this move would prove to be a fatal one.

"We thought 262 was 25 runs more than we desired, as 230-240 was the winning total against Australia [in the first match]," Crowe had said in an interview with ESPNCricinfo years later. 

“If we got 230 I might have been out on the park but because we got 260, we felt that I should not risk my leg."

Despite not being on the field, Crowe would scratch a masterplan for his teams and especially captain Wright to follow. However, it has as many as 17 bowling changes with each bowler having his job perfectly timed. However, all of it was perfectly playing in Crowe’s head and he wasn’t on the field.  

"I was the only one who knew the script really. Lots of bowling changes, short spells, was the key really because that would not allow any batsman to get in,” Crowe had later rued his decision to rest his legs for the final match.

“Danny Morrison had knocked over a couple of Pakistan batsmen in the first over three days earlier. And for some reason, John Wright started off with Dipak Patel rather than Danny. I felt that was weird. So everything changed - he just interpreted it completely opposite to the way I did. But he just did not know it as well as I knew it [the plan] and I should have been out in the middle," Crowe had explained.

Banking on a strong start by Ramiz Raza (44), Imran Khan (44) and Javed Miandad (57), Pakistan would later see Inzamam-ul-Haq (60) taking the team close to the win before Moin Khan finished the chase with one over remaining.

New Zealand had beaten England in the group stage and had Crowe captained his team against them in the final, the Kiwis could boast of a World Cup title today.

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