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New Zealand aim for unchartered territory
John Mehaffey | April 16, 2007 16:23 IST
The task for captain Stephen Fleming and his men now is to venture where no other Kiwi team have gone and advance to a final.
If they do win what is likely to be the second semi-final in St Lucia on April 25, the tantalising prospect then beckons of a World Cup title for the Black Caps before the All Blacks attempt to win the rugby equivalent for the first time in 20 years.
"I guess it's one step at a time. Just to get to the semis was the first step and then you're two games away from winning the World Cup.
"That's a pretty exciting proposition but it's also one that's unchartered," Fleming told a news conference after his team clinched a semi-final berth by defeating South Africa on Saturday.
"The semi-finals, depending who we play, is something that we have to address because we haven't got further than that before."
At the first World Cup in 1975, New Zealand foundered against a West Indies' side who were to go on and beat Australia in a final still rated as the most memorable yet.
Four years later, with Richard Hadlee in their side, they lost by nine runs to England.
In 1992, their best campaign to date, New Zealand co-hosted the tournament with Australia.
Captain Martin Crowe was in imperious form at opener accompanied by Mark Greatbatch, the first of the so-called pinch hitters with a licence to attack from the first ball.
In another innovation, startling at the time, Crowe used off-spinner Dipak Patel to open their bowling.
Unbeaten in the tournament until they lost to the eventual champions Pakistan, the Kiwis succumbed to the same opponents in the semi-final after Inzamam-ul-Haq struck 60 from 37 balls.
Fleming, only two years into the job, captained the 1999 New Zealand team who beat Australia in the opening round but who were then undone by the sheer pace of Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar in the semis.
The present New Zealand outfit lacks a Hadlee or a Crowe, the best bowler and batsman produced by their country to date.
But, as Australia captain Ricky Ponting pointed out on Sunday, they are a battle-toughened outfit who have played a lot of one-day cricket over the past year in preparation for the 2007 World Cup.
The team will now rest before preparing for their final Super Eights match against Australia this Friday.
"It's important that you do chill out for a couple of days and just reflect on what you have done and then rebuild again," Fleming said.
"If you stay too intense for too long you are going to burn out even though it's only two weeks to go.
"The pressure that is going to be on us for the next two, maybe three, games is more than any of our players have experienced. I think this team is pretty well equipped to deal with the pressure."
The seven-week World Cup, the first in the Caribbean, culminates in the final on April 28 in Barbados.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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