Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, March 30, 2015

New Zealand lost the cricket but won hearts.

After hitting the winning runs against South Africa, the NZ batsman grasps the bowlers hands to assist him up and congratulate him on how he played. Like immature school boys, Australian players ridicule the top scoring New Zealand batsman they have just defeated. 
New Zealand and Australia have for the last six weeks been co-hosting the World Cup of Cricket.  The New Zealand team has played outstanding cricket and up until the final had not lost a game. There have been some amazing scenes and great moments for the team. The final was between the hosts, Australia and our New Zealand team, the Black Caps in Melbourne. The Australian team is a very skilled team and they easily beat our team, though we had beaten them earlier in the tournament. There is no doubt that the best team won the World Cup.
But oddly enough, if you go by comments by the various teams participating and the visiting spectators, the most unpopular team of the tournament won the World Cup. The New Zealand team has been gracious in defeat, and have not complained, even diverting attention away from the issue when media were pushing them for a reaction. But the Australians are well known for their sledging,  gloating and aggressive comments on and off the field.  An example is that one of them walked passed a New Zealand batsman seeking to unsettle him by saying, "Get ready for a ****** broken arm!" They give batsmen who have been bowled a send off by gloating over their loss or mistake. They badger the next batsmen coming in.  I know they are skilled players, and like the New Zealand team, I would not want to say their behaviour caused the defeat or in any way use it as an excuse. This is not sour grapes. But I think such behaviour is bad, bad for the sport, their nation and the many youngsters watching. It is bad for society.  (As a side issue, it is sad that even when they are talking in interviews, they do not look like they are enjoying themselves or each other. By contrast the New Zealand team look like brothers enjoying the ride.)  

When I coached school boy cricket I would at times pull the team together and scold them for the very behaviour that the top Australian representative side practices. I would tell them off for being immature, and threaten to default the game if it continued. I once had an opposing coach come to me to tell me to reel in my team, they were whispering comments I was not hearing. Such behaviour does not belong on a sporting field.

All that to say, as I look back on the Cricket World Cup tournament, I am glad I am a New Zealander, and not an Australian. (I am always glad about that anyway) I can look at our team and be proud of their cricketing skills and of their character and the way they played the game, even though they were not the winners. 

A man who has adopted African sons from terrible fearsome backgrounds wrote an open letter to the New Zealand Cricket team... I share some well worded quotes.

"The Australian team showed they have incredible skill, and I honour them for the choices they have made and the commitment and hard work they have shown to achieve what they have. It is a wonderful thing to be a World Cup champion.
However, I don't want my sons to be like them."
"Quite honestly, if they grew up to display the character and attitudes of David Warner or Mitchell Johnson, as skillful as those men are, I would feel that I have failed as a father."
As he thanked the New Zealand team he wrote of his hopes for his sons...

"Whatever they do in life, my hope for them is that they grow up to be men of character. I hope my sons grow up to be men of integrity. I hope they become men who stop for those in need; men full of compassion; men who share what they have even at great personal expense.
I pray that they become men who live constantly in honour, respect, generosity and perhaps most of all, humility. I hope they grow up preferring others above themselves and live in such a way that brings hope to the messed up nation we live in.
And this is why I wish to say thank you."
"But as each of you played your game over the past few weeks, you played in such a way that I could point to you and, as a father struggling to bridge many gaps for my sons, say to them: "Look, whatever you do in life, live like that.
"If you find yourself winning, don't gloat over those around you who may have lost. Be free to play life hard my sons, but play fair. Play with respect and play with honour.
"Don't let the pursuit of winning rob you of the ability to truly see the heart of another person. For when you come to die, those who gather around you will be the ones whose hearts you have chosen to see."
"And so I say thank you.
Thank you for taking your global stage and as a unified team, displaying something more valuable than holding aloft a trophy."
I so agree with this man's sentiments... Well played New Zealand Cricket team.

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