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Anderson warns of Kiwi ‘juggernaut’ at Cricket World Cup

February 14, 2015

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s efforts to contain the hype around their Cricket World Cup prospects had been going well until allrounder Corey Anderson used one word on Saturday to describe their campaign. He called it a juggernaut.

With that, all of the Kiwis’ careful efforts to play down expectations, even after their comprehensive 98-run win over Sri Lanka in Saturday’s opening match, went out the window.

The New Zealanders accepted that anyone was free to make their own judgments, and there were plenty of pundits who liked the look of them as World Cup chances. But when Anderson dropped the J-word at a post-match news conference, the carefully constructed facade of caution and humility fell away.

He revealed this is a New Zealand team that seriously backs itself, and whose confidence is at an unprecedented high.

The word juggernaut — coach Mike Hesson admitted later he’d heard it before but never in connection with the New Zealand team — carries the implication of something that rolls on, something unstoppable. It was in that sense that Anderson used it: He was emphasizing the need for any team with serious World Cup ambitions to create early momentum, then to roll through the tournament, knocking other teams aside.

There was no immodesty on Anderson’s part. He was asked about captain Brendon McCullum’s influence on the New Zealand team, and the manner in which his leadership and his example have a calming effect on other players.

Anderson said McCullum decided not to make any emotional or rallying speeches before the match against Sri Lanka, but stressed the need for the team to maintain the momentum it gained from strong performances in both test and one-day series over the past 18 months.

He said McCullum exhorted his players to “treat it as another game of cricket and go about our work and keep what, I guess, we’ve begun as a juggernaut, to keep rolling forward, and that’s what we did.”

Winning the opening match “puts us in a great position,” Anderson said. “We’ve just taken down Sri Lanka, and they always perform well at World Cups and tournaments. To take them down, I guess it’s a nice feeling to be ahead of the eight ball leading into the second game.

“We’ve got Scotland now (on Tuesday in Dunedin), and obviously they gave us a decent run for our money when we had a warmup game, so we’re not taking them lightly either.”

Anderson said by maintaining its current form, New Zealand was likely to build the kind of fan support that it enjoyed when the World Cup was last in New Zealand, in 1992, when an under-rated Kiwi side won six straight games before being beaten in the semifinals. Cricket in New Zealand has rarely enjoyed a higher profile.

“Obviously I was only two when all that was happening, so I can’t say I was there and watching it, but obviously that captivated a nation and I know we’re going to try to do the same thing, but we’re going to do it in our own way,” he said.

Hesson was mildly amused when asked on Sunday about Anderson’s choice of words. But he didn’t shun the term juggernaut, even if it gave the impression of a team that was highly confident.

It was too late, Hesson said, for New Zealand to expect to “fly under the radar” at this World Cup. They were no longer able to hide behind the reputation of dangerous underdogs that they had taken into previous World Cups. New Zealand’s strong form in all formats of the game over the past year had been noticed by everybody, and New Zealand could not expect to be taken lightly.

“I don’t think we can (fly under the radar). We’ve performed well for a while, so people have taken notice of our performances,” he said. “But as a group we don’t get carried away. We’ll get to Dunedin, we’ll freshen up, and we’ll train, looking forward to Scotland.”

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