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These Kiwis are flying high

March 10, 2003 13:14 IST

When New Zealand won their Super Six match against Zimbabwe at the Goodyear Park, Bloemfontein, their triumph was greeted by the Haka -- the Maori dance to prepare for battle -- performed by the band of supporters gathered from all over the world.

In a virtually empty ground, these fans made their presence felt by singing songs, shouting words of encouragement and waving flags, making the Kiwi team feel right at home.

It is not a very big group -- of around 40 -- but they sure knew how to make some noise. Most of them have met at the grounds, a case of one Kiwi supporter being drawn to another.

Philip Harrison, 27, is an investment banker from London. He originally hails from Wellington, New Zealand, but has roamed the world. He feels the Kiwis will win because they have the world's best captain in Stephen Fleming, the best all-rounder in Chris Cairns and best fast bowler in Shane Bond.

They have been following the Kiwi team around in their cars, spending most nights in student hostels and having the backpacker's ideal vacation.

But can this team beat the Aussies too?

"We will beat Australia too because we performed very well against them when we last toured there."

James Henker, a carpenter from London, is another one of the travelling bunch. For James this is the perfect vacation. Travelling from one end of the country to another in hired cars and vans, living in a tramp's life, visiting game parks and having as much beer as possible.

"We haven't slept in two days," he says.

But one look at all of them and you could not say they were sleep deprived poor souls.

"We are here for the cricket," he declares, "Cricket first and then the South African women."

They have spent around 4000 New Zealand dollars for a two-month vacation.

"India are nothing against New Zealand. Well, not exactly nothing but we will beat them and the Aussies too. We are confident against the Aussies and that is the only way to beat them. You have to believe you can beat them and we do."

That's when Pete, 22, barged into the conversation, with a New Zealand flag draped around his shoulder and the conversation shifted to the Haka.

Why doesn't the New Zealand cricket team follow the All Blacks (Rugby team) and do the Haka before every match?

"In New Zealand everyone knows the Haka; it is part of our upbringing. But we can't do it on the cricket field. Cricket is a gentleman's game, too pristine."

So what was his biggest attraction in South Africa?

"Cricket and the sun. In New Zealand and London we hardly see the sun. This is perfect. Where else can you sit all day in the sun, watch cricket, eat, drink and be merry? This is life, this is cricket."

Ashish Magotra