Brendon McCullum book: Watching the World Cup semifinal from the toilets
Former Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum watched the dramatic finish to the team's 2015 Cricket World Cup semifinal from the dressing room toilets. In his words, here's how the game played out:
Early in the tournament, Dale Steyn was quoted as saying: 'If the team needs two wickets, I'll take those wickets. If the opposition needs five runs off the last over, I'll make sure they only get two. Whatever it takes.'
You'd have to take the man at his word. He's done the job before on us and he's not ranked number one ODI bowler for nothing. Dan is desperate to get Grant on strike. He swings, misses, but takes off anyway. Grant's on to it and charges to the striker's end before the keeper de Kock can throw down the wicket.
Eleven runs off five balls. Grant can't do better than a single off Steyn's second ball, so Dan's back on strike. Ten runs off four balls. Steyn needs treatment for a calf injury, which prolongs the agony for me and forty thousand others at the ground and countless millions glued to their TV sets around the world.
I'm in my usual position in the dunnies at the back of the dressing room, smoking and listening to the crowd.
I never watch live. What does it matter if I'm out front or not? I'm better off in the changing room, trying to stay nice and relaxed, not give off too many emotions, so I can support the boys who are going out to bat.
There's a TV in there of course ... support the boys who are going out to bat.
Once our last batsman has gone out to face, I retreat to the dunnies, out of range of the smoke detectors, and start working my way through a packet of fags.
This time I'm not alone. Two Indian caterers, the guys who're looking after us for our food in the changing room, join me. Like me, they can't bear to watch. One of them says, 'I'm really sorry Mr McCullum, but may I please have a cigarette? I am so nervous.' So the three of us pile into my packet of fags.
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Outside, Steyn comes right and charges in. Dan does what Dan does best: finds a way. He glances a ball behind square on the off and it finds the gap. Six runs needed off three balls. Dan and Grant have a chat. When Dan can't get his bat to the next delivery, he takes off for a bye and, once again, there's nothing South Africa can do about it. Dan has done exactly what he needed to do: put Grant on strike for the winning and the losing of the game and a place in the final. Five runs off two balls. Effectively - though I'm not sure whether Grant knows this - four runs for a tie would be enough, since we finished with more points than South Africa in the pool play and would take it on the count-back.
Grant was a controversial selection in the squad, but we knew we might need his composure and experience for just such an occasion. But we couldn't have imagined that he'd find himself facing his former countrymen with the power of triumph or disaster over them in his hands.
Grant simply takes all the equations, count-backs, and even the last ball of the match out of the reckoning by pulling Steyn gloriously over mid-on for six.
I never thought I'd hear a roar like the one Eden Park delivered when Kane finished off the Aussies with a six, but this is at least its equal. Everyone goes nuts.
In the bowels of the stadium, the two Indian caterers - I wish I knew their names - jump on me and the three of us dance round the dunnies together, then I rush through to the dressing room and out to the front. The boys are ecstatic, but out in the middle, Grant is perhaps the only one who's still composed. After a huge victory pump and a hug with Dan, he bends down to a shattered Dale Steyn and offers him a hand up.
That moment encapsulates what is best about sport. Delight in your win but feel for the vanquished. Know how easily the roles could have been reversed. Know that another time they will be. That's what's so cruel and clear about sport: you win or you lose. The margins may be as tight as the proverbial, but it's still win or lose, triumph or despair and there isn't really much anyone can say to the South Africans to ease their grief. Yes, many say it's the best one-day match they've ever seen, and certainly it's the most exciting high-stakes match I've ever been involved with, but that's scant consolation to the splendid team who make such a legendary match, but lose it.
AB's after-match interviews are heart-rending and gracious, and I can't help that feeling of 'there but for the grace of whomever, go I', and hope that I would be similarly classy if the circumstances were reversed — as they so easily could have been.
And they are so classy. AB and I had agreed the teams would have a beer together after the game, but with the level of emotion they're going through, I'm thinking, Jeez, they're not going to be up for that. Within half an hour every single one of them - every management person, every player, everyone — arrives. You can tell they're broken, but they all come in and they spend a good hour or hour and a half in the changing room having a few beers with us. They are bloody great, and that is one of the coolest moments of the tournament.
Next day, we read the reports and look forward to the result of the other semi-final on the Thursday. I'm quoted as saying that I wouldn't mind facing either Australia or India in the final, and that I back my side to beat either team. Then, when the Aussies polish off India, amassing 328 at the SCG before bowling India out with nearly a hundred runs to spare, I'm pleased. It's the perfect final for us, the chance to beat Australia in their own lair.
An extract from chapters titled Something Special and So Near.
Brendon McCullum — Declared. Written in collaboration with Greg McGee. Published by Mower Books, an imprint of Upstart Press Ltd. RRP $49.99. On sale from today.
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