Matiu Workman: Semi-final sportsmanship a lesson for Australia

Author
Matiu Workman,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 25 March 2015, 10:30AM

It was one of the great sporting images of the year. Match-winner Grant Elliott, a man whose place in New Zealand’s World Cup squad was initially questioned by many, helped lift an inconsolable Dale Steyn from the ground.

Steyn's visible disappointment rippled throughout the Proteas camp. AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel and even David Miller - players known for their in-game aggression - were reduced to tears.

But it was Elliott's own humility moments after sealing New Zealand's first World Cup final appearance that will stick in the minds of many as one of the lasting memories of this global showpiece.

Sportsmanship, it's something New Zealanders have taken in their stride in the cricketing world. For the most part, the Black Caps are seen by many as the real bastions of cricketing sportsmanship.

Elliott told reporters after the game that he genuinely felt for his opponents.

"Humble in victory, humble in defeat, so it's just a part - I guess - of who I am.

"I felt quite sorry for [Steyn]. I felt quite sorry for a lot of the South African guys for losing the game. It could have been us."

Offering words of consolation to your defeated opponent is common place, but to have a genuine sense of compassion is something that is difficult to find in other teams.

That compassion comes down to two factors. The first is an intrinsic sense – one that is sympathetic to the suffering and disheartened. The second is what value the individual places on the team he plays for or against. In Elliott’s words, the Black Caps are 'like a family'.

This team culture was obvious when there weren't just limp handshakes between teams, but genuine illustrations of consolation and congratulation. Then, after the dust settled and the reality had set in, the two teams shared a drink together in the changing rooms.

Mateship - one of the great foundations of sport - was alive and well between these two sporting rivals once more.

These things are worth noting with an eye on the second semi-final, between Australia and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.

It would be fair to expect a fair amount of tension, banter and confrontation that had littered India's tour to Australia ahead of the global showpiece.

In recent years, the World Cup co-hosts have returned to their bold and brash nature, using sledging and aggression to unsettle teams. While this in itself is OK, there are times where players have stepped out of line and the spirit of the game takes a hit.

Australia must use Thursday's game as a chance to recapture the spirit of cricket that has been so clearly on display in New Zealand throughout the seven-game Sri Lanka series and the World Cup. If Australia needed a lesson in sportsmanship, they should've tuned in on Tuesday.

Regardless of who wins on Thursday, or even in Sunday’s final, our legacy for this tournament should be one of goodwill and upholding the spirit of cricket.

We've done our bit. With the last two games across the ditch, it's Australia’s turn to try and level a gap in cricketing spirit that's about as lengthy as the 2155km between Auckland and Sydney.

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