The beauty of sport is that it gives you a chance to dream and turn it into reality. It enables us to pursue something elusive and extraordinary with intent and belief. On Wednesday, what New Zealand did was all about sport at its most sublime.
The Black Caps have played 449 Test matches in their history. Yet, inarguably, the most important Test they played was the one that took place across six days in Southampton for the World Test Championship title against mighty (in all senses) India. Small teams—small by every relevant metric including player pool, resources, population, size of the country—like New Zealand are limited in terms of ambition because of various constraints, from finance to pool of players or lack of it. But the Black Caps are different. Since the days of Ken Rutherford and Stephen Fleming, that hasn’t affected them. While they lucked out because several of their all-time great cricketers—Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tim Southee and Trent Boult—as well as the seemingly once-in-a-generation all-rounder Kyle Jamieson, came together at the same time, this is essentially what sport is all about: triumphing against odds. They didn’t need to turn water into wine because they knew how to build a team that exceeded the sum of its parts. Each and every player in that squad fulfilled a specific role and all of them bought into the side’s ethos.
Just take the example of B J Watling, their wicketkeeper standing in his final Test. He kept wickets on Day 6 with a dislocated right ring finger. Words like spirit and unity are also a truism in sports. Williamson, New Zealand’s quiet, unassuming leader, also touched upon this during a poignant victory speech. He acknowledged that maybe his side does not have heroes, but they more than make up for it because of other more intangible traits. And unlike India, the Kiwis had already played two Tests against England in those conditions before the final, winning the second match handsomely. Test cricket couldn’t have asked for a more deserving inaugural champion. That a small nation with limited resources could overshadow the Big Three (India, Australia and England) shows how sports is indeed a great leveller.