New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum says his team will start “as underdogs” when they meet Australia in the World Cup final on Sunday.
The Kiwis are unbeaten but have played all their matches at home and now travel to meet the four-time winners in Melbourne.
“I’m confident we’ll give ourselves the best chance,” said McCullum.
“We’ll play well, but that doesn’t guarantee us anything. It also doesn’t guarantee Australia will beat us.”
However, Australia captain Michael Clarke, who will retire from one-day cricket after the final, does not believe his side have the upper hand.
“I don’t buy into the favourites or not favourites,” said the 33-year-old batsman.
“New Zealand have been the form team of the competition, but I’m confident if we play our best, we can beat them tomorrow.”
New Zealand are appearing in their first final having beaten South Africa in the last four after losing six previous semi-finals.
Australia, champions in 1987, 1999, 2003 and 2007, are looking to extend their record for most World Cups won, with no other having lifted the trophy more than twice.
While New Zealand have won all six of their matches on home soil, Australia’s only defeat came at the hands of the Black Caps;
The MCG is thought to favour the Australians as the ball is less likely to swing for New Zealand opening bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee, while a much bigger playing area compared to venues across the Tasman may work against McCullum’s aggression at the top of the order.
“Obviously it’s got a different look to it,” said McCullum, 33. “But in this day and age with bigger bats it still brings into play the fours and sixes, so we’ll adapt accordingly.”
Clarke, who was part of the team that won the World Cup in 2007,
The right-hander said he decided to give up limited-overs cricket after the semi-final win over India.
“I believe it’s the right time because I don’t think I’ll be playing in the next World Cup,” said Clarke, who will continue to captain the Test side.
“I’m very happy. I’ve said from day one that the game owes me nothing, I owe the game everything, and I’ve been really fortunate in my life to be where I am today because of the game of cricket.
McCullum has also hinted that New Zealand left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori could retire after the final, ending the 36-year-old’s 18-year international career.
“He’s a tremendous ambassador for the game of New Zealand and also worldwide,” said McCullum. “He’s been an outstanding team-mate and a very close friend as well.
“It would be nice, not just for him, but for the other guys as well to achieve the ultimate success.”
Despite being near-neighbours, New Zealand have not played a one-day international in Australia since 2009, a series that was drawn 2-2 and included a Black Caps win at the MCG.
The most famous moment in trans-Tasman cricketing history also occurred at the MCG, when Australia’s Trevor Chappell delivered the final ball of an ODI underarm, rolling along the ground, to prevent New Zealand’s Brian McKechnie hitting a six that would tie the match.
“I think it’s a healthy rivalry,” said McCullum. “I think we’ve seen some epic battles over the years, and across codes as well. It’s not just cricket and rugby, it’s all codes.
“We’ve seen tremendous battles between the two and both countries stopped while the teams are playing respective sports. Sunday is no different.”
The expert view
Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming:
“Yes, McCullum’s men can win, but as to whether they will, that is absolutely in the balance with the odds favouring Australia – but only just. That is not some Kiwi self-deprecation on my part, but rather an acknowledgement that Clarke’s side has a slight advantage because they know the conditions better than the Black Caps.”
Former Australia fast bowler Andy Bichel:
“For New Zealand, now is a new challenge playing for the first time in Australia. I believe this won’t really be a huge factor. Boult and Southee will enjoy the extra bounce from the MCG wicket.”
Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith:
“Although losing the toss is not the end of the world, I would expect the winning captain to elect to bat first. Putting runs on the board in a pressurised environment cannot be underestimated. Giving your bowlers a decent total to defend, gives them the confidence to go out there and execute their skills accurately.”
- Australia are playing in their seventh World Cup final, more than any other team. They have won four. New Zealand have never before reached the final.
- Left-arm pace pair Trent Boult of New Zealand and Australia’s Mitchell Starc at the leading wicket-takers in the tournament with 21 and 20 respectively.
- New Zealand’s Martin Guptill needs nine runs to join Kumar Sangakkara on 541 runs, the most in the tournament.
- Of all the players to have scored 300 runs in the tournament, Brendon McCullum’s strike-rate of 191.81 is the highest. Australia’s Glenn Maxwell strikes at 182.02.
- Daniel Vettori needs one wicket to become New Zealand’s leading World Cup wicket-taker (currently tied with Jacob Oram on 36). Tim Southee (currently 33) also has a chance to break that record.
- Corey Anderson needs 19 runs and one wicket to join Lance Klusener (1999) and Yuvraj Singh (2011) as the only players to have scored 250 runs and taken 15 wickets in a World Cup.