Two men from New Zealand stole the limelight during the 1999 World Cup in England. The duo - Geoff Allott & Roger Twose - have arrived in UK once again and this time as spectators, with their family cheering the Black Caps from the stands at Lord’s during the final against England on Sunday.
Allott turned out to be the highest-wicket taker in the 1999 World Cup, claiming 20 wickets in nine matches while Twose was NZ’s highest run-getter, scoring 318 runs at an average of 79.50.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, the former New Zealand stars opened up on the influence Brendon McCullum has had on NZ cricket, on the 'underdogs' tag, what a World Cup final participation is all about in New Zealand, how the IPL has helped the Kiwi cricketers perform under pressure and a few other subjects.
You guys are back here after twenty years...How has it been?
Geoff Allott: It's fantastic to be here. New Zealand have struggled to get through but we have fought hard to have an opportunity to play the final at Lord's which is a really special moment. For Roger and I, to be here, twenty years later...we didn't quite make it to this level back then - we got knocked out in the semis - but to be here is really special.
How would you describe the journey of NZ cricket over the years?
Roger Twose: I have taken a very keen interest over the last five years or so watching the way Brendon McCullum pulled the team together. The style with which he played, the sportsmanship he displayed, the aggression that he has shown. I think that has flowed through to Kane's team, it's a different type of team in its own style. We have now seen them get to the second World Cup final (in succession)'.
How much of an influence has McCullum had on this New Zealand side?
Roger Twose: I think there's an influence. I think Kane is his own person but McCullum changed the way NZ played the game.
Geoff Allott: It's even bigger than that. I think the manner in which he brought his aggression and his confidence to the team has filtered through to entire New Zealand cricket - through to the board, administration and our junior cricket. We see our kids coming up and playing aggressive cricket, five and six years old kids, in the manner in which McCullum did. What I loved to see lately, is Kane's development. Kane is an incredibly classy player, obviously a classy captain but I think he is now also building that confidence that NZ needs to play slightly more aggressively than we had probably 20-30 years ago.
Kane Williamson, on being tagged the underdogs, said: "Breed of the dog doesn't matter!" You guys must have hearing the 'Underdogs' for a long time. How do you see it?
Geoff Allott: Being an underdog has always been New Zealand's tag. Typically, we are a nation of 4.5 or 5 million people. We are up against a lot less resourcing, up against a lot of talent. Lets' face it. We look at the Indian nation of 1.2 billion people. So we have to in many ways, take that underdog tag.
We don't mind that, I think that's the point Kane was raising. We are confident in our own abilities and we are confident in our own process. But we don't need that added pressure. We will take it if we need to. But I feel this team knows what they have to do and they are fighters. We saw in the quarters (2015 WC) and semifinals, they know how to win those tight games. I love Kane's point. Actually, it doesn't matter what we are labelled, we will take it.
New Zealand have reached the final of the WC for the second time in succession. What does that mean for NZ cricket?
Geoff Allott: We saw the impact in 2015. It was the first time we reached a final. I think we have been in six semis before that. So i guess the influence it's had on our junior cricket, our female cricket programs, the influence it's had I guess on our sponsors and our interests even with likes of our good friends with India and our relationship with Indian cricket because we become a bit more attractive, a bit more marketable.
I think in this case, to reach the final against England at the home of cricket it will be massive. I know we have lots of support from Kieron Read, the All Blacks (NZ rugby team) captain. We are seeing support for this event from all around our sport, our politicians have come forward to support, This is a sort of thing that brings our nation together. It's far bigger than just cricket. This is all about New Zealand.
Roger Twose: New Zealand is a proud sporting nation. When the All Blacks win the rugby World Cup, the nation is massively uplifted, it's phenomenal. The excitement and the interest in the game. So, I would imagine, it would be huge in terms of not only cricket in New Zealand but the general feel in the country and excitement would be massive (if we go on to win).
Allott, you spoke about NZ cricket being marketable and attractive in India. You have your own business (Quality NZ - company) in India and a few former NZ cricketers are being involved in it. How do you see the relationship between NZ and India?
Geoff Allott: We have been in India for over six years (Quality NZ - company). We have Roger, Stephen Fleming, McCullum, Daniel Vettori, Sir Richard Hadlee as part of it (share holders) and ambassadors. We deal with 200 five-star hotels. We are delivering New Zealand food products to India and it's great to have the cricketing ambassadors and understand that many relationships occur because of cricket.
Our conversations with lot of Indian business people is because of their passion for cricket. I think we have seen as well with the relationship between Kane and Kohli is actually...NZ and India get on very well as two cricketing nations. I think that's very important, the spirit of those games has always been pretty fair. We try and take the same philosophy to our business. We really enjoy being part of the Indian culture and we look forward to many years ahead.
How is the Indian Premier League helping the NZ cricketers win big moments?
Roger Twose: I think any exposure to our New Zealand players playing in the IPL is a massive experience because I don't think....potentially a World Cup final...but I don't think there is any bigger pressure in the game of cricket than standing for your franchise and playing in front of thousands of Indians obviously broadcast around the world...so anytime you are playing under pressure and you are going over there with a big price tag on your head, you have been paid big money and you feel like you have got to perform for your franchise, it's invaluable.
Allott, what's your assessment of the current NZ pace attack led by Trent Boult?
Geoff Allott: Trent (Boult) is world class. Not only that, but I think what we have seen in the last few years is a great effort by the other opening bowlers - Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, where they are all chipping in.
It's not just one player going at it. Boult is obviously a fantastic strike bowler but we have got others now who are coming out and doing the job. so we have got that scenario, we you are so much effective because there is no release of pressure. And I think we have really seen that with our bowling so far in this tournament. we have really backed each other and that's been a real highlight for me.
Twose, what's special about this New Zealand middle-order?
Roger Twose: In terms of No 3 and No 4 , Williamson and Taylor, that's a pretty good pair you can get at that number. Tom Latham at five is a very smart cricketer. I love the way he plays and adapts. Then we have got thee allrounders - Jimmy Neesham , Colin De Grandhomme, who are both dangerous and are followed by Mitchell Santener. We have got a very strong middle-order. It takes only one or two of them to fire and then suddenly you get a decent score on the board.
Sanjay Manjrekar recently termed Ravindra Jadeja as 'bits and pieces' cricketer and the latter reacted to it on Twitter. NZ do have always had quite a few all-rounders and you yourself could bowl and bat. How do you look at it?
Roger Twose: It's just a term. Someone labelled me, when I was playing county cricket. I bowled a bit and batted a bit. What it means, probably, is an understatement of an all-rounder in the sense you bat a bit, bowl and field a bit. Each and everyone knows that Jadeja's world class in his own way. His 77 the other day was phenomenal. I don't think it was meant (Manjrekar's comment) in a nasty way, personally. I think it's blown out of proportions.
Also read – World cup winners list