Melbourne, Australia: The secrets of New Zealand's success at the Cricket World Cup at first glance seem contradictory: calmness and aggression.
But New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum stressed on the eve of Sunday's final against Australia that those contrasting elements will be at the heart of his team's attempt to win the world title for the first time.
The calmness is in the preparation, the aggression in the execution. McCullum said New Zealand will again rely on the calm, methodical buildup that it has followed throughout the tournament to relax and to produce on the field an attacking style that has won fans around the world.
"Tomorrow's a huge occasion but what's served us so well all the way through has been a nice, calm, relaxed emotional state and it will be the same tomorrow," he said.
McCullum sets the tone for New Zealand on the field with his aggressive batting at the top of the order — he has the tournament's highest strike rate at 191 — and with his attacking captaincy.
New Zealand has won all eight of its World Cup matches — six in pool play, including a one-wicket win over Australia, a quarterfinal and a semifinal — by following that policy of all-out aggression.
It's a policy of risk-taking in which New Zealand is prepared to admit the possibility of defeat in order to achieve victory, even against better-rated teams.
"For us we need to play well, that's how we're going to beat teams on regular occasions," McCullum said. "We're not afraid of losing. For us we think about what we can achieve.
"That's not always going to work and there are going to be times when we come out on the wrong side of it. But that gives us our greatest chance of success against big opposition teams on a regular basis. So we'll continue to play like that and develop a sense of fearlessness about you and also a real can-do attitude as well."
McCullum said Australia pursued a similar style, but he played down the influence of his captaincy or that of Australia's Michael Clarke, who has announced Sunday's match will be his last one-day international.
"I think it's Australia versus New Zealand and I'm more than happy with the horse that we've got and the tactics we're going to employ," he said. "It doesn't guarantee us success, but I think the game we've got is going to make us hard to beat.
"Innovation and instinct can only come from a place of hard work as well. We've got to earn the right to be able to be as aggressive as we want to be and I guess Australia will be no different. I certainly don't see it as a Michael versus me final."
"It doesn't guarantee you success but it gives you your greatest chance and I know tomorrow we'll still remain authentic to the way we play," McCullum said. "We'll play an aggressive brand of cricket with bat, ball and in the field. We'll play with the humility we've played with throughout this campaign as well and hopefully the big fella upstairs shines on us when the pressure situations come into play."