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For Brendon McCullum, nothing's too difficult


Brendon McCullum might be abiding by an ideology easier said than done, but the results have shown
On Air New Zealand flight 125 from Auckland to Melbourne - his team's first outside of the country since the World Cup began, and just hours after a pulsating win over South Africa in the semi-final - Brendon McCullum looked a focused man as he rose from his seat at the back of the aircraft and scanned the rows in front of him for familiar faces. He had a small notebook and pen in one hand, his smartphone in the other. He spotted a few team-mates and coaching staff and made his way down the aisle, slowly; Matt Henry and Martin Guptill to his immediate left, Tim Southee a bit further across. Craig McMillan and Shane Bond ahead, and Trent Boult, asleep in his seat with a face towel over his eyes.
McCullum had a plan on his mind, but it wasn't cricket, even though NZ 125 was headed to Australia, where New Zealand would meet the winners of the second semi-final at the MCG in the World Cup final. He was looking for golf partners.
McCullum took nods and counted hands, jotted them down. He woke Boult from his nap, kidded around with him. Bond, the team's bowling coach, was up for a few rounds on the green. Most of the Blackcaps' squad was ready. One of the last members of the team that the skipper asked was Guptill, at the time fixed on his iPad, watching the first episode of season five of Breaking Bad - you know, the one which opens with Walter White rearranging pieces of bacon into the shape of 52 - who said that he too was up for some golf in Melbourne.
Then, moments later, Guptill looked up and told McCullum that if he was having difficulty with making even numbers, he could opt out because his wife was due to land in Melbourne the next day. "Aww, not at all, mate. Nothing's too difficult," was McCullum's reply with a wink.
There, in that one reaction, was the core of McCullum's message to his unbeaten team at the World Cup. It is, perhaps, their mantra. His remark was off the cuff, casual, but it resounded with the mentality of the man. Nothing is too difficult. The McCullum way.
Nothing is too difficult. It was what fuelled McCullum's attack on Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel at Eden Park when the target was 298 in 43 overs. It was what led his thinking when hours earlier, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis were transforming the tone of South Africa's innings. It typified Grant Elliott when he faced up to Dale Steyn with five to get from two balls. It was what Guptill embodied while scoring a century in a tricky chase against Bangladesh. It was what carried Southee when he came back for a second spell against England. It coursed through Boult's veins against Australia in Auckland. It was what willed Daniel Vettori to lug his body across the World Cup, starting in Christchurch with two big wickets. It was what gave Vettori wings at the third man boundary in Wellington when Marlon Samuels slashed upwards. It is New Zealand at the World Cup.
In the time left until the final begins on Sunday afternoon, McCullum will tell his team that nothing is too difficult. They will sense it. They will believe it. They will train with that tempo, they will relax on the team bus and in their rooms and when they walk the streets of Melbourne during their off time. They will pad up with that thought, they will role their arms over in practice with that thought, they will take skiers and hit rubbery stumps with that thought. When Mike Hesson speaks to the players and reads from his notes, he will echo McCullum's line of thinking.
Australia have been confirmed in the final after dumping aside defending champions India at the SCG on Thursday. They are the home team, and it is fitting entirely that the two co-hosts who share a long rivalry - and a bit of the Big Brother syndrome from north of the Tasman - are pitted against each other at a storied venue like the MCG. The talk in Australia is that New Zealand are not enough of a match for a mighty home team, on bigger grounds with the fans supporting them, and that McCullum's team will struggle to adjust after playing all their matches in New Zealand.
Michael Clarke, after the win over India, touched on the challenge his team and New Zealand will face. "I think the fact that the conditions are different will certainly help us, and we've played a fair bit of cricket throughout the summer at the MCG, as well. Conditions are a lot different to what New Zealand have been playing in [in New Zealand], but in saying that, I think we're going to have to play our best cricket. There's no doubt about it," he said. "I said that before this game, we have to play our best to beat very good opposition. New Zealand have been the form team of the competition, [they] certainly deserve to be in the final, and yeah, we're going to have to be at our best to beat them."
New Zealand will indeed be challenged. They won't be the favourites. They won't enjoy the raucous din of a full house. They will find it tough, perhaps tougher than anything they've faced in the World Cup. Clarke's Australia will come hard at them, as they did to Pakistan and India in the knockouts. Clarke wants this World Cup more than anything. It's why he endured pain and switched himself on to a rigorous level during the India Tests. He wants to win.
But you know McCullum's mantra. Nothing is too difficult. He genuinely believes it and you can see it in his body language. In two days, we will all know whether that catchphrase can really go the distance.
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