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



  • POSTED BY Shahid on | January 18, 2014, 21:29 GMT

    Pakistan is going to crash in this 2015 world cup.

  • POSTED BY imran on | January 18, 2014, 20:25 GMT

    @putrevus....if the 1992 WC format was bad then what about the present format. The group stages are meaningless n even a kid can predict the 8 quarter-finalists. There is no prize for topping the group stages n one bad day or a fluky performance in Q/F or S/F can undo all the hardwork done in group stages

  • POSTED BY ESPN on | January 18, 2014, 17:31 GMT

    Martin Crowe was a great player but blaming John wright for the loss is not fair, he did what he could

  • POSTED BY ESPN on | January 18, 2014, 17:27 GMT

    NZ played all matches in NZ, short boundaries great batch did for them until Pakistan took him early in semi final on a slow ball. NZ never had a thing to b champion

  • POSTED BY Sharma on | January 18, 2014, 11:16 GMT

    @Kalan & @Laeeq when fourth place team with fewer wins can cause a fluky upset against team with most wins , it is more due to that Pakistan being lucky than being good.

    when Pak can be bowled for 70 odd runs and still end up as a champion only due to that match being rained out then that world cup win is more due Pak being lucky than being good.

    what is point in winning all those matches in league phase when you know one bad day can kick your team out by a fluky team .

    To respect that league phase top team should have been sent to final other wise league phase was just waste of time.

    I am glad that that format is no longer used.we don't need any more fluky champions.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | January 18, 2014, 2:38 GMT

    Gavin Larsen - the postman - always delivered (for his team) ... ah the 90s cricket ... :)

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | January 18, 2014, 1:34 GMT

    Larsen was a spin bowler with run up :)

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | January 18, 2014, 1:33 GMT

    @ putrevus hahaha it was the format in which top four team have to qualify for semi and pakistan was on number 4 so qualified for semi .winning more group matches doesn't mean you will win the title for that you have to show class in semi & final thats what pak did and win :)

  • POSTED BY Azad on | January 17, 2014, 19:51 GMT

    Everyone seems to agree that Martin Crowe is an excellent cricket thinker , his columns on cricinfo seem to show the same. Did he ever coach in the kiwi land , was he successful ? may be someone from NZ can answer

  • POSTED BY Bipul on | January 17, 2014, 19:43 GMT

    Gavin was one of my favorites. I always wondered, why he is so very difficult to get away. I hardly saw anyone scoring out of him. He was brilliant.

  • POSTED BY Rakesh on | January 17, 2014, 18:55 GMT

    New zealand are consistant world cup semi finalist, sad they lose the semifinal each time. And I still rememeber the innings from Haq in the game. small ground and even mis hits would go for six on that ground.

  • POSTED BY Chris on | January 17, 2014, 18:15 GMT

    @@@putrevus The 1992 worldcup was best ever format worldcup. Each team had a chance to play with other teams. NZ was on top so thats y they played the last team among top 4 which was PAK. If they lost to PAK in semi then is it the format to blame? Compare 1992 format to 1996 and 2011. All test teams qualified to quarter final easily without evenb playing against most of teams against other group. 2015 is also based on the ridculuous and non intersting format as 1996 and 2011. Everyone knows who will be in quarter final , then what is the purpose of pre quarer final matches. Aust can go to quarter final by just defeating afhanistan /ireland or any non test playing team. I don't understand who gave quarter final suggestion in cricket. It is not football worldcup where dozens of teams playing.

  • POSTED BY Sharma on | January 17, 2014, 17:19 GMT

    He is right , NZ were the best team in 1992 world cup ,only a fluky innings by a very lucky Pakistan team separated them from the cup.

    that 1992 world cup format was horrible , Pakistan even though won fewer matches than NZ still won the cup which is just ridiculous.

  • POSTED BY Unmesh on | January 17, 2014, 16:57 GMT

    Oh those good old nineties and those dibbly-dobbly bowlers! New Zealand had so many of them: Gavin Larsen, Chris Harris and Nathan Astle. In the 90s Tendulkar was on top of his game, but these dibbly-dobbly bowlers troubled him the most! Hansie Cronje was another wily customer..looked innocuous, but batsmen hated facing him. Even the dibbly-dobbly Ganguly had some success in the 90s as bowler in ODI cricket. I remember him being Man-of-the-Series against Pakistan (I believe in Toronto) mainly for his bowling. Somehow Kohli's bowling reminds me of Chris Harris. But the only similarity is the action. He doesn't seem to possess the same skills with ball. Chris Harris' ball seemed to "stop" for a fraction when it arrived to the batsman. I don't know how he did that.

  • POSTED BY Stephen on | January 17, 2014, 15:38 GMT

    Super Gav was a legend for NZ and Wellington. 20 odd years ago I was playing tennis on a public court in Wellington after work. Pakistan were touring and it was the first time we'd really seen late reverse swing. I managed one of my rare aces and yelled across the net "and he's felled by a vicious inswinger from Waqar Younis!" The next serve was slow and sat up begging to be smashed back down the line, which it was. I was about to say "then he follows up with a Gavin Larsen dibbly dobbley and gets hit out of the park", but stopped myself for some reason. Just as well - as I looked around for the ball I saw that on the court next to us Supper Gav was having a game with his wife.

  • POSTED BY Android on | January 17, 2014, 14:25 GMT

    Larsen was gracious enough to give me an autograph when NZ was in India for Independence cup. Indian players were snobbish enough to not even wave at fans except Sachin Tendulkar who ironically was the only superstar in that team.

  • POSTED BY achint on | January 17, 2014, 11:42 GMT

    The 1992 WC was NZ's best chance of winning a ICC tournament. They should have won it. As the WC returns to trans-tasman after 23 years, they are once again in a great position to give a competition to all other sides.

  • POSTED BY imran on | January 17, 2014, 11:05 GMT

    brought back the memories of the 1992 WC...For me it was the best of all the WCs we have ever had so far...its format n the quality of cricket we saw was very good. It would have been great if the 2015 WC also had the same format as the 92 one..

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | January 17, 2014, 10:54 GMT

    Without doubt..Martin Crowe was the best captain in that World cup of 1992! Brilliant tactics....

  • POSTED BY Android on | January 17, 2014, 10:22 GMT

    that NZ team of 1992 was unbelivable i never saw a spin bowler open the bowling and the way greatbatch went after the bowlers 1992 was in all a great worldcup looking forward to 2015 wc hope you guys put up a good show

  • POSTED BY jared on | January 17, 2014, 10:18 GMT

    i was never really a fan of larsen's i must admit, i always thought he never really offered alot with bat or ball, even he admited he felt like a club journeyman and in all honesty that was about his level but you don't get the nickname the postman if you don't deliver the goods and despite what i thought he must of been the most econonical bowler in the world, if not he must of been close, which in odi cricket is invaluable, time and time again he tied up an end and dried up the runs and just got the job done, while im pleased we no longer have a pop gun attack, larsen and the team of 92 deserve nothing but accolades for what they achieved at that tournament, it was them that hooked me as a cricket fan.

  • POSTED BY sachit on | January 17, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    Good to see that the article has been corrected to include "[in Tests]" which was earlier missing. Thanks for the feedback everyone.

  • POSTED BY D on | January 17, 2014, 8:41 GMT

    Gavin Larsen... The Postman. Always delivered. Respect.

  • POSTED BY Victor on | January 17, 2014, 6:26 GMT

    I was never captained by Stephen Fleming <b>[in Tests] </b>, but from what I saw of how he developed, he was very close to Crowe.

  • POSTED BY Dummy4 on | January 17, 2014, 5:56 GMT

    @9ST9: He was never captained by S. Fleming IN TESTS!!

  • POSTED BY Samrat on | January 17, 2014, 5:52 GMT

    @9ST9:He says that he was never captained by Fleming in "Tests".

  • POSTED BY sachit on | January 17, 2014, 4:02 GMT

    Larsen says : "I was never captained by Stephen Fleming," but Larsen's last match was in the 1999 WC and NZ was captained by Fleming. What's he on about??