Wellington: New Zealand coach John Wright has praised his team's aggressive approach ahead of Tuesday's World Cup semifinal against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
Wright brushed aside criticism of New Zealand's conduct in its shock quarterfinal win over South Africa on Friday, when several Black Caps clashed with Proteas batsman Faf du Plessis at the end of the 28th over.
"I liked the aggression of the team," Wright told New Zealand media on Sunday. "They were very aggressive, particularly in the field. I think that's important.
"The odd thing happened but these things happen in international sport. I really like players who play with aggression and passion."
Wright, who has turned around one of the worst form slumps in New Zealand's history since his appointment last December, was more concerned by his side's batting performance.
With the Black Caps forced to defend a below-par 221 against South Africa, Wright said an improvement against Sri Lanka was crucial.
"We have to bat well, that's the key for us," he said.
"I think the boys are learning - you need those wickets in hand going into the last overs and you set those targets.
"We'll look inwards and focus very much on trying to get better as a unit."
The International Cricket Council slapped New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori and paceman Kyle Mills with heavy fines over the ugly bust-up with du Plessis, while the South African batsman was also penalised.
Mills, who was not part of the playing eleven and only on the field as a drinks carrier at the time, has since been ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a leg injury.
The New Zealand Herald said the altercation was a "black mark" against the national side, marring a gutsy win from the underdogs.
"The New Zealanders need to ensure they don't look infantile when milling around goading the opposition. It resembles bullying," the newspaper said.