Learning from the past

Stephen Fleming and his men are eagerly looking forward to the challenges in the Caribbean. "There is an excitement mounting in the team looking at the big goal," he tells Lynn McConnell.

Going into his fourth World Cup, captain Stephen Fleming is happy that the mistakes that have littered past New Zealand campaigns have been eradicated and it will all be down to performance on the field.

Fleming's own career achieved its most significant impetus at the 2003 World Cup with an innings of 134 not out against South Africa where he shook off many of the frustrations that had marked his international career. However, that campaign was affected by short-term selection mistakes, which Fleming admitted he was part of, and the refusal to visit Kenya for security reasons.

Fleming said he looked back at 2003 and the Kenyan decision with "understandable regrets". But he says the side could still have progressed had it beaten India in their quarterfinal game.

The lessons from that campaign, and those of the more successful 1999 event when New Zealand lost its semifinal to Pakistan, were factors in his approach to the 2007 campaign. "It's about us going about our work with conviction and believing as a New Zealand squad that is giving us the best chance," he said. "The squad is the key point in the side's approach this year. It is an inclusive concept, similar to that of NBA basketball teams where the top teams regard themselves as only as good as their bench. It takes two or three guys to perform well. But the accompanying acts have to be of a good standard.

"Look at 1999, (left-arm fast bowler) Geoff Allott and (batsman) Roger Twose were outstanding but we fell short because the accompanying acts weren't quite up to it.

"What we need is three or four guys or even five or six during the tournament to be in a purple patch and understand the pressures of bouncing from team to team and the challenges that presents."

That is why so much of New Zealand's preparation during a hectic one-day build-up since Boxing Day has centred on exposing as many potential members of the 15-man World Cup squad as possible to top-level play. Fleming was determined to suffer no more short-term fixes. He even went to the extent of opting for Daniel Vettori to lead the side in case he should be unavailable for any reason.

"You look at the 1992 World Cup with Martin (Crowe) getting injured in the semifinal. He still talks about it being a crucial component with John Wright not using the same philosophies as he was using. We've tried to get rid of that by giving Daniel three games against Sri Lanka to guarantee that we have got everything covered," he said.

"Preparation has been very thorough and for a long period of time, it's not something we've just thought about now. It's been a long-term process and we've always performed well when we've had a goal in mind for some time," said Fleming.

While New Zealand had a reasonable record of success at World Cups in the past, making the semifinals in 1975, 1979, 1992 and 1999, Fleming wondered why it had not done better.

"I'm not really sure we've gone into World Cups believing we can win in the past," he said.

"We've hoped we can get there, sure, and bar one or two top players being in top form we would have fallen well short. If we can get a number of guys in form then we're going to come very close."

And Fleming sees the build-up against Australia and England in the CB Series and the Chappell-Hadlee one-day series, where they swept Australia 3-0 recently, central to that.

The background work has been done. The Kiwis are sporting individual campaign dossiers that are more extensive than ever. "There is an excitement mounting in the team looking at the big goal," Fleming said.

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