In 1990 when Marylebone Cricket Club appointed Gary Stead as a groundsman of Lord’s he could not imagine that one day he would return to the same field as the coach of one of the World Cup finalists.
But life often produces such surprises and there could not be a better surprise for Stead, the head coach of New Zealand men’s cricket team, who will try to outmanoeuvre hosts England in Sunday’s World Cup final.
It will be his third coming to the ground, having already guided New Zealand against Australia in the league phase here.
His first experience as New Zealand coach at Lord’s was bitter as an 86-run loss put their semi-final hopes on the ropes.
New Zealand rode on their luck to edge Pakistan in net run rate to qualify for the semi-final and then stunned India at Old Trafford to ensure they have another go at Lord’s in the final.
‘In 1990, I was lucky enough to be on the ground staff here at Lord’s and you had different duties when you turned up and one of them was cleaning the windows, as well as selling scorecards, taking the mail around and score box duty too which was pretty cool,’ Stead said.
‘It was a great experience and any time coming back here is pretty special. Playing Australia here was pretty cool, but the extra emphasis on what this is about makes it even more special.
‘As a team we’ve worked on three key goals throughout the tournament and we’ve achieved two of them, so now we’ve just got one to go,’ added Stead, who played five Tests for New Zealand in 1999 before taking coaching as his profession.
Stead is aware it will not be an easy job to achieve their third goal, which is lifting the trophy, by beating a side who are as hungry as New Zealand and will have the home fans backing them in the final.
It would be only the second World Cup final for New Zealand, who ironically played their first final also against the home side and lost badly to Australia in 2015.
Stead will be looking to avoid a similar fate this time, which, if they can be successful, he hoped will earn them an unprecedented public holiday on Monday.
‘There is pressure on both teams and it is how you handle that and what is made of it,’ he said.
‘The exciting thing is neither team have won a World Cup. Both have had some finals experience but you’re going to have a different winner than last time.
‘Seeing that England and India were being touted as the winners maybe there is more pressure on them, I don’t know.
‘Until you face it, it is hard to know how it will go. You can’t replicate what goes on in big moments like this but I’m pleased how we coped in the semi-final and the characteristics we talk about in our side came through,’ added the former opener.
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