White Ferns have belief to shed bridesmaid tag
OPINION: In recent times New Zealand have been something of a third wheel in women's international cricket.
A bit like the single friend who is invited out to dinner with a loved-up couple - they're present, there are efforts to make them feel included, but in the end the couple only have eyes for each other and the friend ends up leaving early.
That's been the White Ferns' story when it comes to major tournaments during the past five years.
England and Australia, without question the most consistent teams in women's world cricket, have claimed all the spoils between them, with England winning the last 50-over World Cup, in 2009, as well as the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in the same year.
Australia won the previous 50-over World Cup, in 2005, and have won the last two T20 World Cups, in 2010 and 2012.
New Zealand? Well, their sole triumph on the big stage was now 13 years ago, at the one-day World Cup in 2000, on home soil.
They've become accustomed to the bridesmaid tag, though, having lost three World Cup finals (one 50-over and two T20s) in the space of two years in 2009 and 2010.
They were ousted in the semifinals of the most recent World Cup, last year's T20 version.
You guessed it, Australia and England faced each other in the decider.
A 3-1 loss to Australia in the Rose Bowl one-day series before Christmas suggested more of the same could be on the cards at this year's 50-over World Cup, which starts for the Kiwis with a group B opener against South Africa in Mumbai on Friday night.
But there is genuine belief among the New Zealand team, belief that would now appear to be justified to those on the outside after they toppled Australia 2-1 in a Twenty20 international series in Melbourne this week.
"It's huge. I don't think you can underestimate the value, in the changing room, of winning games," New Zealand captain Suzie Bates said of the first series win on Australian soil in 26 years.
"Regardless of the format, it's great to have wins under your belt and we've just got to go and carry on what we've been doing in India. It's just nice to have this momentum going into the World Cup, and this winning feeling."
Even before their success this week, Ferns coach Katrina Keenan, a member of the World Cup-winning team of 2000, was in little doubt New Zealand had the players to win a World Cup.
"There's very little separating the top teams at this level, so it's very much going to be about sticking to our game plan and our strengths and how people cope with the pressure. We believe we can compete and win at the World Cup," Keenan said.
"In the past we've shown that we can do that at various stages of the game but we require complete performances, it's definitely something we are working on."
Runs from the experienced Bates and left-hander Amy Satterthwaite at the top of the order will be vital, as will Sophie Devine's hitting power in the middle order. There are few better strikers in the world.
As well, allrounder Nicola Browne, who also has few problems finding the boundary, looms as influential.
The slower bowlers are expected to be prominent in India, and New Zealand have a few handy ones, most notably Morna Nielsen who bowled exceptionally well in Australia this week.
The Ferns have two warmup matches - against Sri Lanka on Monday and England on Wednesday - before their tournament opener against South Africa. They will also face Pakistan and Australia in group B. Group A is headed by defending champions England and includes India, the West Indies and Sri Lanka.
2013 ICC WOMEN'S WORLD CUP
WHITE FERNS MATCHES WARMUP MATCHES (NZT)
v Sri Lanka, Mumbai, Monday v England, Mumbai, Wednesday GROUP B MATCHES v South Africa, Mumbai, Friday 10pm v Pakistan, Mumbai, Feb 3, 4.30pm v Australia, Mumbai, Feb 5, 4.30pm WORLD CUP WINNERS (runners-up in bracket) 1973 England (Australia) 1978 Australia (England) 1982 Australia (England) 1988 Australia (England) 1993 England (New Zealand) 1997 Australia (New Zealand) 2000 New Zealand (Australia) 2005 Australia (India) 2009 England (New Zealand)
- Sunday Star Times