Gavin Larsen

'You know you're cracking up when people applaud you in an airport'

Gavin Larsen, part of the team organising the 2015 World Cup in New Zealand, reflects on medium-pacers, Crowe's tactics, and that 1992 semi-final

Interview by Andrew McGlashan
Gavin Larsen:

Gavin Larsen: "New Zealand ebb and flow in terms of our results. At the moment we are ebbing" © Getty Images

The dibblies, dobblies and wobblies, as they were affectionately known, was not an intentional ploy.

Eden Park became our fortress through the 1992 World Cup. The pitch was slow. It was a fallacy to say they all were - the pitches in Napier and Wellington were quicker. In terms of maximising the use of the medium-pacers, though, Auckland played right into our hands.

We were down on ourselves. New Zealand cricket was going through some tough times. I'd just come into the team in 1989-90, we were having a changing of the guard. It was Ian Smith's last tournament, it was John Wright's last tournament, we had young guys who'd just emerged. It was unexpected how we turned it around.

We won seven on the bounce which was unheard of for a New Zealand cricket team. After we'd won three or four, there was this tidal wave of support. You know you are cracking up when politicians want to come into the changing room and when the public are applauding you as you walk through an airport. I'd never seen it before and never saw it again.

New Zealand ebb and flow in terms of our results. At the moment we are ebbing.

The series before the World Cup was against England and we got towelled. There was friction between the board, the selectors and Martin Crowe as captain. They wanted Hogan out. There was a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes, it was all very unsettling. I just remember that before the World Cup, through Martin and Warren, we had some good team meetings, pulled the battle plan together and there was a good feel in the team.

The absolute catalyst was game one at Eden Park, when we beat Australia. There was a pitch invasion at the end. It was unbelievable.

They are quite a demanding public We are a small country. The cricketers get looked upon to punch above their weight. The public can tend to jump on the back of the players and administrators. It was no different back then. When we beat Australia there was a release of emotion like, "Wow, are we on to something special here?"

In a way I was lucky. I hit an era when one-day cricket was becoming a big focus. A guy like me, who could bowl back of a length at 115kph, found a role.

The real innovation was around Mark Greatbatch at the top, going at the bowlers in the first 15, and Dipak Patel opening the bowling. That's where we created a significant point of difference. You've got to applaud Martin Crowe and our coach, Warren Lees. Marty, in particular, was a very creative thinker and a brilliant thinker. The genesis came from him.

Roddy Latham didn't bowl much for Canterbury but was just very effective for a few overs. We came into our own.

"Tactically Martin was light years ahead of anyone else I played under. I was never captained by Stephen Fleming, but from what I saw of how he developed, he was very close to Crowe"

Even now, there's great pride, but it's tempered with the realisation of what could have been. If I go back to that day, the pivotal moment was when Martin Crowe tore his hamstring. Marty was the boss, he ran the gig. He was like a chess master, the way he moved his players around. He was just clever.

We had a recipe and took it from game to game; fields we set, bowling changes, very short spells - that was quite rare back then, one-over spells.

Tactically Martin was light years ahead of anyone else I played under. I was never captained by Stephen Fleming [in Tests], but from what I saw of how he developed, he was very close to Crowe.

I was probably the only guy who had a set formula. Unless we got bashed early, I would come on around the 13th or 14th over, bowl seven off the reel with the sweepers back, then come back for the last three in the late 30s. I'd done my job. The rest of the bowlers Martin challenged all the time. That unsettled the opposition, and certainly Dipak with the new ball did.

It was a catalyst for one-day cricket to be viewed on a par with Test cricket. It created, in my mind, a greater focus on short-form cricket. That team played its part in fashioning how one-day was received.

I'd have backed myself in T20. But you can't bowl back of a length, hitting off stump. It's about innovation and I believe I'd have found ways to find new deliveries. Maybe that's a bit ego-driven.

The World Cup always offered you an opportunity to focus on something for that window. Right, how are going to plan through this? We've always done a good job with that.

I still pinch myself. I felt like I was a club journeyman. I played age-group cricket and was captain. I was a batsman who bowled, but my batting never really kicked on, which was always disappointing to me.

I bowled in tandem with Chris Harris for the best part of ten years. Harry and I are still good mates. It was really fun times.

The thing I'll take to my grave, going back to the 1992 semi-final, was that after Martin had done his hamstring we didn't implement the plans that had served us so well. It was a tough situation for John Wright, but we deviated away from what had worked. For example, I'd bowled out my ten overs by the 30th and Chris Harris bowled at the death, which he never did. It upset my rhythm and I know it did the others too.

We de-personalised the teams, called them by their colours. We never referenced England or Australia. It was the sky blues and the yellows. New Zealand teams in the past had been guilty of being a bit hung up on who we were playing, but we were playing guys with two arms and two legs.

The day after I retired in 1999, following the World Cup, the phone rang. The Bank of New Zealand had just exited as the main sponsor of New Zealand cricket and the National Bank had come on board. The boss asked if I wanted to be an ambassador. I didn't have a job, so I thought about it for two or three seconds then said yes. My body had packed up at that stage.

"I hit an era when one-day cricket was becoming a big focus. A guy like me, who could bowl back of a length at 115kph, found a role" © PA Photos

We scored 262 [in the semi-final], which is worth about 320 these days. Of the three tournaments I played in, 1992 was the one we could, and perhaps should, have won.

The World Cup job [Cricket Operations Manager] is very exciting. I'm sure you'll see the whole country get behind the event. After that I'll see where the game takes me. Heading overseas is certainly an option.

I'd previously worked in IT. I was a late starter, didn't play for New Zealand until I was 27, so I had a career behind me. I was married with a kid before I even started playing.

We could have beaten that England team in the final. We thrashed them at the Basin, smashed the runs off easy. There was no fear. That was one of few times a New Zealand team has stepped onto the park with no fear. It was expectation instead.

We bought a pizza shop around the corner from home. I was Wellington CEO for five years. After that I felt it was time to move on and have a bit of a lifestyle change. My kids work in the business and are now duty managers. It's ticking along and is a bit of fun. It keeps me fed on a Friday night.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo