England celebrate winning the 2019 Men's World Cup
England celebrate winning the 2019 Men’s World Cup
Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium Date: 14 Nov Time: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Sport website. Text commentary plus in-play clips and highlights on BBC Sport website and app.

It’s the biggest game of your sporting life.

A World Cup final. The pinnacle of your playing career. Millions of people are watching on TV around the world.

As New Zealand and Australia prepare to meet in Sunday’s T20 World Cup final in Dubai, BBC Sport asks those who know best how to prepare for the biggest match in cricket.

What is the build-up to the big day really like? How much sleep do you actually get? And which England player was so nervous that they were sick in the bathroom at Lord’s?

A trip to the zoo

It’s the day before the World Cup final. The world’s media descends and the cricketing spotlight is on one stadium. The pressure is mounting…

Not so for Carlos Brathwaite.

In 2016, 24 hours before hitting England’s Ben Stokes for four successive sixes to win the final, the West Indies all-rounder was not spending hours in the nets or restlessly pacing his hotel room. He was at Kolkata zoo with his girlfriend, now wife.

“I tried to wear a hat and a pair of shades so no-one would know who I was,” Brathwaite tells BBC Sport.

“Before that final no-one knew who I was anyway, so it was a lot easier.

“It was just good to take your mind off it, get out of the hotel, switch off and allow your body to be in a relaxed state.”

Before the 1992 World Cup final, England’s players were distracted by a row about laundryexternal-link. In 2010, England’s victorious World T20 side went surfing as their preparation to face Australia.

“We might have had a light training session and went to the beach and rode a few waves,” seamer Ryan Sidebottom says.

“I remember that tournament for lots of reasons but definitely that we just chilled out as a team.”

Pace bowler Liam Plunkett, part of England’s 2019 50-over World Cup-winning team, tried to keep his routine as normal as possible.

“Most of us were looking after kids,” he says. “I met up with my family for dinner.

“By the time you have training, come back and have some food, it soon goes quickly. People distract themselves a little bit but I was excited. It doesn’t come around too often so I wanted to enjoy the moment.”

The dreaded night’s sleep

When the distractions are over comes the big question: how do you sleep the night before a World Cup final?

England’s 2010 campaign may have been a month of beaches, golf and Jack Black songs on the team bus, but the night before the final was a different matter.

“I slept absolutely horrendously,” Sidebottom says.

“I ordered room service, hardly touched it, and don’t reckon I got to sleep until four in the morning.

“You are just playing the game over and over in your head and, as much as you want to sleep, you are still thinking about it. I hardly slept a wink.”

For others, a lack of sleep was not a problem.

Alex Hartley, a Women’s World Cup winner with England in 2017, tells BBC Sport: “I actually think I got a 12-hour sleep.

“I went to sleep stupidly early – about 8pm. I decided if I don’t go to sleep now I will never sleep.”

Plunkett says: “I managed to get a good night’s sleep. It wasn’t like all of a sudden, bang, you were in a World Cup final.

“It had been building up to that because you were in a World Cup.”

Liam Plunkett
Liam Plunkett took 3-42 in the 2019 World Cup final

An unwanted trip to the Lord’s bathroom

So the big day arrives. Breakfast is eaten – if you can. What next?

“I was fine at breakfast but it was when I got to the ground that I was like ‘Oh, this is nerve-wracking’,” Hartley says.

“Heather [England captain Heather Knight] came and put her arm around me and said, ‘You will be OK. Just go out there and be yourself and what will be will be.’ I needed that. I had probably gone white.”

But that was not the end of it. A trip to the famous Lord’s dressing room came next.

“I had to go and be sick,” Hartley says. “I do get nervous but I had never experienced anything like that.

“I was thinking about when I did the tour of Lord’s when I was a kid with my dad and brother. It all got a bit much for me. Luckily we batted first so I could go and sort myself out in the bathroom.”

Alex Hartley celebrates
Alex Hartley’s England beat India by nine runs in the 2017 Women’s World Cup final

Australia’s Adam Gilchrist had to be woken from a nap in the dressing room to go out to bat in the 2007 World Cup final. Some of Sri Lanka’s players were so relaxed in 1996 they spent the morning shopping for carpets.

Brathwaite says in 2016 his side were helped by the fact West Indies women played – and beat – Australia in their final before the men’s showpiece.

“Whilst we were preparing for the game and driving to the game we were switched off trying to support the girls,” he says.

“It probably distracted us a bit and took away some of the nerves and anxiety.”

Zoos, surfing, vomit and carpets. That’s all before the match begins.

“Once we had bowled, me and Swanny [ex-England spinner Graeme Swann] sat in the toilet together while we were batting because we were so nervous,” says Sidebottom, recalling England’s ultimately convincing chase of 148 to beat Australia in Barbados.

“You could hear when we hit a four or a six or a wicket had fallen and we’d run in and have a look at the scoreboard and then go back into the toilet.

“It’s amazing you can be fine when bowling in front of millions of people but when you are batting…

“If it was down to me and Swanny with the bat we would have been struggling.”

Only time will tell how New Zealand and Australia cope this weekend.

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