| Head to Head: Stephen Fleming and Sourav Ganguly on the eve of their clash. (Reuters)
Johannesburg, March 13: It’s debatable whether Pierce Brosnan can do a Shane Bond but, with his killing looks, the latter can certainly give the reel Bond a run for his dollars. He’s quite a killer over the 22 yards, too, and New Zealand is looking to him for a ticket to the World Cup semifinals.
The hurdle, though, is India. And, as captain Stephen Fleming acknowledged, the past — specifically the Black Caps’ 5-2 win two months ago — is history. “India has discarded what happened in New Zealand and has struck form,” he noted, indicating that his task tomorrow in Centurion is more than cut out.
Four points will mark the Black Caps’ second consecutive round-of-four entry, while a loss will place them on tenterhooks for 24 hours. Should Sri Lanka beat Zimbabwe, in East London, Fleming and Co. will take the first flight home. Otherwise, it will be to Port Elizabeth and semifinal No. 1, against Australia.
Left to Sourav Ganguly, he would settle the issue in Centurion itself. “If we succeed, there’s a good chance Sri Lanka will move ahead and, on the Port Elizabeth wicket, could be more than competitive (versus Australia),” he said.
Clearly, Sourav is doing a Viswanathan Anand. The morrow will see the finest captains lock horns. Sourav is instinctive and passionate; Fleming keeps earning kudos for teasing strategies and excellent preparation. Given the rout India suffered only recently, there’s bound to be some needle between the two.
Perhaps to pre-empt that, Fleming played down the “we are looking to reopen old wounds” quote attributed to him. Sourav, however, was into overdrive: “The world knows where the teams stand. We are already in the semifinals, they haven’t got there.... That’s the reality.”
Sourav insisted the team wasn’t getting into a settling-scores frame of mind. “We don’t wish to think that way, we just want to add four points to our Super Six tally (16). What we do realise is that the pressure is all on them.... In any case, looking back on what happened a couple of months ago, I’ll simply say that form is temporary, class permanent....”
That holds true for Sachin Tendulkar. He had scores of 0,1 and 1 in the ODIs against the Black Caps, while the World Cup has seen him total 571. The manner he handles Bond should influence the outcome of what Sourav described as a “belter”.
Privately, New Zealand will regret not travelling to Nairobi — a decision which gave Kenya four invaluable points — but Fleming defended that. “We’ve tried to control our destiny to the extent we can.... The board took a strong decision and the right one. But, yes, that the ICC didn’t relocate the match does sit heavy,” he said. But, surely, that has landed them in an awful position.
“It’s not a bad one.... If we beat India, we are through to the semifinals. Six months ago, had somebody said we would be playing India for a place in the last four, I would have happily accepted that,” Fleming said. Talking to The Telegraph, he quipped: “We’ve been in this do-or-die situation for much of the past few weeks.... It’s not new for us.”