New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum today gave his gritty side a 50-50 chance in the World Cup summit clash against Australia tomorrow and said the Black Caps will relish the big occasion and the big stadium that awaits them here.
"...It's been the greatest time of our lives. It's been an amazing trip. We dreamt right from the start and to now give ourselves a 50-50 chance in the final is an amazing achievement," McCullum said in a pre-match press conference.
Unbeaten in the tournament so far, New Zealand would be playing outside home for the first time in the mega-event's current edition.
There has been a lot of talk about the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which might trouble the Black Caps, who have played all their matches in comparatively smaller New Zealand ground.
Asked if "size does matter" at all, the skipper said, "Yeah, obviously it's got a different look to it. We've played on grounds all over the world. If you look at Abu Dhabi, the Emirates stadium is a big ground as well. Obviously, it doesn't have the same amphitheatre that obviously the MCG presents, but I think boundary size it's bigger.
"But in this day and age with bigger bats as well it still brings into play the fours and sixes. So we'll adapt accordingly. It's something that we'll relish, I think. We'll look forward to the opportunity to play in such a big stadium and a different kind of cricket ground, and we'll give it a good shake."
Questioned on his team's chances, the dashing opener said, "We'll play well tomorrow but it doesn't guarantee us anything. It doesn't mean that Australia won't beat us, but I'm very confident we'll turn up and display our skills just as we have done throughout the tournament."
Asked if the once little kid from South Dunedin ever believed that playing a World Cup final was reality, the soft-spoken McCullum had an embarrassing smile.
"We've had some tremendous support back home. I think the brand of cricket that we've played has really touched a lot of people and endeared ourselves to a lot of people who follow this game," McCullum answered the query with all humility.
The skipper said his team will give its everything.
"We've got one big hurdle tomorrow. We'll give it everything we've possibly got. Hopefully if we play well, we'll be smiling at the end of the day and be able to look back on a fantastic campaign and something, which would hopefully invigorate the game and New Zealand," he said.
The MCG as a venue at times can be intimidating and McCullum had to admit that there will be a few butterflies in their tummies when they step on the gigantic turf.
"Yeah, I think that's a fair call. A hundred thousand people in Australia's backyard, Melbourne Cricket Ground, the history and traditions and against a very good Australian side. I guess this is the ultimate game for us," McCullum said.
"So with that I'm sure some guys will be nervous tomorrow morning, so I guess there is some excitement about us going out there tomorrow. That certainly whets the appetite and creates the greatest stage we can ask for. So it's certainly going to be a special day," the skipper put it eloquently.
McCullum feels that the old adage of "Nothing is Impossible" holds true and they would do all that they can to prove it.
"There is no challenge which is insurmountable. With a lot of hard work, lot of heart, lot of belief and make sure that everyone's heading in the same direction. You're able to play a brand of cricket that gives you your greatest chance, and that's what we've had throughout this World Cup and we've built over a period of time."
Unity has been one of the biggest strengths for this New Zealand team, believes McCullum, adding that World Cup final is just the beginning of taking country's cricket to next level.
"I think what we've got at this point in time is a group of guys not just on the field but back room staff, reserves, even guys on the periphery of the squad as well who are all desperate to represent New Zealand and make a difference in this game.
"We're also on the same bus heading in the same direction, and that allows us to be rather instinctive on the field and pretty, I guess, brave as well, because you know you're going to get totally behind from the group," he said.
"So we've got a great group of guys from 1 through 25 on the squad, and the guys who it's been a pleasure to be able to share this experience with. It won't stop at the end of the World Cup. We've still got a lot of hard work to do to achieve what we want in this game, and where we want to stand in International Cricket, but we've made a good start," McCullum signed off.
It is unusual for teams to announce their playing XI but McCullum said they will be playing with the same XI that was there in the semi-final.
"We're going to play the same team tomorrow as what we played in the semifinal. So from our point of view we'll go out there and try to be as good as we possibly can. Whether we bat or bowl first, we've won games batting first as well as we've won games chasing. So for us, it's more about the belief rather than an absolute necessity to bat or bowl first," he said.
The dashing batsman won't curb his attacking style of play.
"Yeah, I'm not planning on changing. I'll stick to the same, the same aggression. It would be a bit silly to change, wouldn't it? We'll have a go. We'll step up tomorrow and we'll try to be as good as we've been throughout this tournament. And it gives us, as I said, our greatest chance of success. So to try to play like anyone else is foolish."
All Blacks legends like Dan Carter, Colin Meads are demigods in New Zealand but McCullum is happy with the interest that his team has been able to generate as he knows that things will return to same once Cup is over.
"We know when the World Cup is over, we'll sort of return a little bit to where things were. But at the moment, we'll just try to embrace the fan following and what we've been able to achieve for New Zealand. I think it's captivated the country back home. We've felt the support all the way through.
"Even while we're here in Melbourne are feeling the support of the people back home. For us, to be talked about and followed in the same breath as some of the great All Black teams, it's immensely satisfying, but we know we've got to continue to build on that too."