Grant Elliott: It was a great feeling to look at the team, the crowd, savour that moment and realise that we’re through to the finals

Almost the last man to make it to final 15 in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 squad, chosen in place of a certain Jimmy Neesham, New Zealand all-rounder Grant Elliott silenced all the critics with his match-winning, under pressure performance in the semi-final against South Africa. Elliott’s knock helped New Zealand make history as they reached their first ever final in World Cup. An elated Elliott and shy by his own admission spoke to the media after the enthralling game in Auckland.


Q: Grant, how does feel and what does it mean to you to have sent your adopted country through to its first World Cup final?
Grant Elliott (GE): Oh, just for the fans and the 4 million people in New Zealand, I think the supporters, that wins for them, the support has overwhelming, and I think there’s been a lot of talk about us just making the semis and never quite kicking on. I know it means a lot to the team, but you could see the emotions in the stands today. It means a lot to a lot of people in New Zealand. Hopefully, we can repay the faith in the final, as well.

Q: Can you tell us about the moment that you hit the winning runs? What were you feeling?
GE: I think that’s the first moment that you actually feel a release of emotion. I think cricket is the sort of game where you have to be quite unemotional in your approach. Yeah, it was a great feeling. It was a great feeling to look at the team and look at the crowd and sort of savour that moment and realise that we’re through to the finals.

Q: How does it feel to have played probably the most famous shot in New Zealand’s cricket history?
GE: I don’t know. I’m quite a level sort of person, and I like to stay out of the media, to be honest. I guess it’ll sink in. I think after the World Cup I’ll maybe look back and sort of reassess and savour those moments. My family was here and my sister has got a wedding on Friday. Unfortunately I’ll miss her wedding. If you can put that in the press and say I’m sorry, I saw her earlier, she was pretty happy for me, but yeah, I’m going to have to give her a special gift, I think.

Q: AB de Villiers said that was probably the best shot of your career. Was it?
GE: I guess it is. I really did feel the pressure. I felt the pressure. I had two balls, Dan said we weren’t going to run to the keeper again, so it was up to me. I had two balls to try and take us. I knew that four runs would do it because a tie was as good as a win, so that was always in the back of my mind. But I think the chase, we probably left it a little bit late to be honest, and it was stressful towards the end there.

Q: How did you then go about absorbing that pressure because you’re under an incredible amount of pressure from the moment you came on to bat, really.
GE: I think this game, it’s amazing. Once you’re in the zone and you’re playing with freedom and you’re not really thinking, then it’s a great game. It’s just to see the ball, hit the ball, and that’s something that you have to do towards the end. It was unfortunate that I guess we left it late in the end. It would have been nice to try and plan to get it with an over to go. But credit to South Africa. They’re a world class team. They’ve got world-class performers, world class bowlers and batters, and they played a very good game, as well. It’s a testament to how well they played.

Q: Just to take you back to the first innings, when that rain came maybe de Villiers and du Plessis looked like they were going to get on that roll. How do you think the rain affected the Duckworth-Lewis?
GE: Yeah, I think that was a key moment in the game. They would have scored but it was a very good batting wicket. They were set. They built the innings up nicely and it was a shame actually that the weather had to intervene into the game. But 290 was a tough score and 43 overs, as well. It’s a shame Duckworth-Lewis had to play a part, but I think the spectators got what they wanted in the end.

Q: What sort of impact did the crowd have on your innings and yourself in the game?
GE: The crowd was amazing. When you’re out there, someone said it was like a jungle when we played Australia. Fortunately, the Australian game when we played there, we got a taste of what it was like. It’s an amazing crowd, amazing place to play cricket.

Q: What does it say about the depth in the team that different team can sort of show up and do things like that? It’s not the same guys doing it day in, day out?
GE: I think every team in the World Cup, they have their match-winners, and on the day, we saw Martin Guptill just take the game away from West Indies, and I think we can expect the same in the final. There will be some match winners there or players that do some special things in the final, and that’ll be essentially the performance that will take the game away from the opposition. We do have a lot of match winners, and I think guys have played exceptionally well during this World Cup. I think our bowlers have set up things quite nicely for us, but Brendon has been batting well, now Guppy, Ross is looking good. We’ve got a very solid team, solid line-up, and then our finishers with Anderson and Ronchi.

Q: Can you talk about after you hit the winning shot and sort of gave it both arms and Dale Steyn was on the ground and you lifted him up? What was sort of said in that moment that sort of encapsulated the whole spirit of the game?
GE: I think you have to feel compassion, humble in victory, humble in defeat. I feel it is a part of what I am. I felt quite sorry for him, I felt quite sorry for a lot of the South African guys for losing the game. It could have been us, it could have been me sitting there having missed the last two balls and I would have been pretty gutted, as well, along with 40,000 people in the stadium, I’m sure. Yeah, just felt a little bit of compassion towards him. It means a lot to them. Obviously, they’ve never made a final, and we wanted to just as bad as they did. Yeah, that’s what it was all about.

Q: You’ve played in both countries that were out there tonight at a high level. Do you think there’s something different about the culture of South African cricket that even when they play properly they come out on the wrong end of the equation, or have they just lost a hell of a game of cricket?
GE: I think that’s the game of cricket. There’s things that happen, small moments in the game. That catch when Anderson was dismissed, I think we were reviewing it to see if it had hit the wire. If it had hit the wire, some things just go against you. I was dropped a couple of times towards the end there. I think that’s just the game of cricket. Things happen, and you can’t look at the result all the time. I think you can’t be too result-driven. It’s not just about winning. There’s a lot of processes that go towards it. To reflect on the team that we’ve got, it does feel like a family. We’ve got a great team and everyone plays for each other and plays for the 4 million people in New Zealand, and I think that’s the big difference. I think when you look at the big picture and you look at it as a team and you play for each other, then it takes away that insular feeling of individual performances, and there’s definitely none of that in our team, which is really good for our environment.

Q: Grant, the fact that the greatest moment of your career has come against South Africa, does it in any way make it a little bit sad? Is there a tinge of sadness in the joy?
GE: When I immigrated to New Zealand I wanted to become as New Zealander, and I’ve made New Zealand my team, and it’s great to repay, I guess, the hospitality that everyone has shown when I arrived in New Zealand. I love the country. Yeah, it’s sad that I left South Africa when I did, and I had a lot of history there, went to school there, obviously played a little bit of cricket there, got some good friends there. But New Zealand is my home, and pretty stoked to have got New Zealand to the final with that shot at the end.

Q: I know that the standard answer to these questions is that you’re just happy to be in the final no matter who you play, but surely given the fact that one of the two possible opponents you play is the host nation, do you have a preference as to who you’ll face at the MCG?
GE: No, I don’t think so. I guess it would be quite nice to play Australia just because the game we had here was a close game. But no, we’ll see, we will watch the game obviously and then see who we’re going to face in the final. I think the guys are just going to be really upbeat, and we’ll approach it as we have every other game, but it’s obviously a World Cup final, and it’s a great opportunity for someone to stand up and win the World Cup final for their country, which is an awesome opportunity. It’s not a situation that you’ll be in very often in your cricket career.

Q: That’s sort of a dream innings that you played. When you were a little boy playing in the backyard did you visualise hitting a six to win a game in a World Cup knockout?
GE: I always wanted to play in a World Cup since the ’92 World Cup. My mom let me stay at home to watch the first game, which was Australia versus South Africa, and I got suspended from cricketing at school for a little while because I did that. But that left a massive impression on me. I just saw that tournament, the coloured clothing and everything; it was what I wanted to do. And yeah, it’s funny how life works. It’s amazing to be at Eden Park today and to hit the winning runs to take New Zealand into the final. It’s been an awesome journey.

Q: Can you take us back to that ball because AB was talking about how you were setting yourself for a yorker, and they thought they would bowl a length ball and because you were setting yourself for a yorker you would miss it. Did you see that ball coming? What happened in that moment?
GE: Oh, I’ve had relative success in T20 cricket for Wellington. I guess I change my game a little bit at the death when you can free yourself up. I was looking to hit that ball for six or four. I was just going to line it up and wherever it was, it was going over the boundary, hopefully. I didn’t want to be there 17 odd out and not winning this game. That was not a position I wanted to be in.

Q: Did you see that kind of ball coming?
GE: No, you don’t premeditate with batting. The less you think, the better.

Q: Talk us through what’s happening in the changing room right now.
GE: I haven’t spent much time in the changing room, but there was a bit of music on and boys were pretty upbeat, a bit of hugging. I think it may have changed since I left. It might be an absolute shambles now. I don’t know. There will be some very happy players. It was amazing after the game, everyone walking on from support staff to players, it means a lot to everyone, just as much as it does to all the fans and supporters. I think there are so many people that play a part to a New Zealand team making the final. There are so many people that would have played a huge part in a lot of New Zealand guys’ careers to get to this point. It’s a pretty special moment.

Q: You’ve been part of the team in the past where maybe the team wasn’t as well supported as it is now. What’s it been like to come back in and experience this kind of support all around the country and to come here and it culminate in this?
GE: Yeah, pretty blessed to experience it in our backyard. I think it’s been amazing walking the streets and feeling the support of everyone in New Zealand. I think we’ll reflect on this time very fondly, just as the ’92 World Cup, all the guys that made it to the World Cup and made it to the semis, they reflect on it very fondly. It left a big impression on a lot of people, including myself. Hopefully it’ll drive some more young players to want to play cricket and want to become a professional and win some games at Eden Park one day.


Courtesy: ICC