Black Caps fans welcome home returning World Cup heroes in Auckland
The Black Caps have received a hero's welcome on their return to New Zealand after cricket fans gathered on Auckland's waterfront on Tuesday evening to catch a glimpse of the beaten, but proud, World Cup finalists.
Speaking at an official presentation in The Cloud on Queens Wharf, Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum said the team were amazed by the continued support of the New Zealand public.
"It's great to see the sort of support we've had during the World Cup and even now that it's over," McCullum said.
"There's no shame in losing the final against a very good Australian team, and they deserve it. We came second but the fans have been outstanding and the support has been superb."
Black Caps batting coach Craig MacMillan said the event was an important opportunity to thank New Zealanders for their support of the team.
"Throughout the six weeks there's obviously been a real wave of support for the side, and I don't remember it being as strong as it has ... It's really important on a night like this to come back and say gidday to all the fans," he said.
"These are the sorts of things the guys will remember when they talk about Cricket World Cup 2015 in years to come."
While the crowd on the waterfont was estimated at just over 1000, earlier on Tuesday hundreds of supporters cheered the team as they came through the arrival doors at Auckland Airport to mark the end of their Cricket World Cup campaign. Players, including McCullum who carried his young daughters, stopped to mingle with fans and obliged them with selfies and autographs.
While the Kiwis suffered defeat at the hands of Australia on Sunday, their sportsmanship was lauded by fans, media and the cricketing fraternity all over the world.
Retiring Black Cap Daniel Vettori said it was a lovely way to finish a test career that started 18 years ago. He said it would have been nice to go home with a World Cup but was now looking forward to spending more time with his family. The veteran allrounder flies out of New Zealand on Thursday to coach in the Indian Premiere League.
A lot of people had fallen in love, or back in love, with cricket during the past six weeks, Vettori added. The support the team had received for their fair play was "really pleasing" he said. And while sledging from the Australian team had made headlines, Vettori said it had not left a sour taste after such a positive tournament.
Former Black Cap and bowling coach Shane Bond said the semifinal against South Africa at Eden Park was his number one cricketing memory. Bond said he felt "contentment" to leave team at this point.
Bond was taking a break from New Zealand cricket, to also coach in the IPL, but wasn't ruling out a return in some shape or form.
"It's in my blood," he said.
Batsman Martin Guptill who scored a record-breaking 237 runs against the West Indies said it was a "pretty special day" for him before reflecting on the World Cup final loss.
"I'm very proud of what happened that day (against the West Indies) and no one can take that away from me," he said.
"Unfortunately on Sunday we picked a hell of a day to probably have our worst batting performance of the tournament.
"But that's how cricket goes and we had a fantastic time during the tournament."
Amazing reception at Auckland airport for the guys arrival home.Thanks for your support NZ it made a difference. pic.twitter.com/dphHxHfOfa— Craig McMillan (@cmacca10) March 31, 2015
Terminally ill New Zealand cricket great Martin Crowe was at the final in Melbourne to support the Black Caps and Guptill said it was great to have his mentor present. The team took Crowe down into the changing rooms after Sunday's game for a glass of wine, he said.