The ‘Black Caps’, always the dark horses in ICC multi-team events announced their 15-member squad for the World Cup almost 20 days before the 23rd April deadline. Signalling intent and clarity this campaign, the fifth favourites for the tournament arrive with an experienced, balanced squad and the conditions should suit big hitters such as Martin Guptill who will be crucial to their chances. With an impressive ODI record in England his importance at the top cannot be understated.
Expectations at World Cups have, since the turn of the century at least, been the same – to reach the semi-finals. In part this is because that has, largely, been their lot. New Zealand have reached the final four seven times – in 1975, 79, 92, 99, 07, 11 and 15. World Cup 2015 saw the rise of New Zealand once again as the superpower in the cricket world. The side led by Kane Williamson managed to reach the Final of the tournament, albeit they got creamed by Australia in that one-sided final. The current New Zealand team does not have the same buzz and hype surrounding it that it did going into the 2015 World Cup. Their form has not been great either, with the ODI series loss against India at home exposing a few chinks in the armor.
Given their record that sells them short, somewhat, the format and conditions in the UK should suit them just fine and with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the first 10 days, the chance is there to build early momentum.
Before the action begins, New Zealand play two official warm-up games that give them the opportunity to fine-tune their playing XI. These matches are different in the sense that the teams are free to play all 15 of their squad to experiment with their lineups and test players for fitness issues. Both games are at 03.00pm and will be telecast on Star Sports and streamed live on Hotstar.
Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Colin Munro
Perennial underdogs in World Cups. Finalists in 2015, the Kiwis will look to end the drought in England where conditions will suit their batsmen and bowlers.
Strength: Led by their run-machine captain, the Kiwi squad boasts of quality all-rounders who can carry the match on strong shoulders
Weakness: Despite its strength on paper, the team often fails to play to its potential. A misfiring top order turns out to be its biggest liability
Flat tracks and short boundaries are expected to provide mega totals. The Black Caps harness batsmen and all-rounders in the form of Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Colin de Grandhomme, Taylor and Jimmy Neesham who are more than capable of clearing the fence.
Like everyone, they will come hard at the top but are also flexible in their ability to switch tactics if conditions or early wickets dictate. In the field New Zealand will be inventive and scrap to save every run. They are not opposed to grinding their way to victories, and have learnt to hold composure when chasing daunting totals.
Ross Taylor enters his fourth, and almost certainly last, World Cup in the form of his life, raising the prospect he might even outshine Kane Williamson in England and Wales. The good news for New Zealand fans is that the former captain and his most recent successor in the role will be playing on the same team. They will be expected to provide a formidable three-four combination in the batting lineup. Both have been in superb form since the Black Caps reached the final of last World Cup but Taylor has overshadowed his 28-year-old skipper and risen to the top three in the International Cricket Council rankings. The 35-year-old has scored 2,892 ODI runs over those four years, placing him sixth in the list of most prolific batsmen headed by India captain Virat Kohli (4,306).
The talismanic Williamson is the key though. But given he performs more often than not, New Zealand’s fate rests more with Guptill. Guptill’s ODI record in England is seriously impressive – 652 runs at 46.5 with a strike-rate of 97.31, including an unbeaten 189 from 155 balls. His importance at the top cannot be understated. Henry Nicholls or the out-of-sorts Munro, two contrasting batsmen, will join Guptill in opening up. Either way responsibility rests on Guptill, the senior man and one of the best white-ball strikers in the world. Look no further than his unbeaten 237, the highest World Cup score in history, featuring 24 fours and 11 sixes in the quarter-final victory over the West Indies in Wellington, to appreciate the damage he can cause.
Their bowling department also looks fiery, with the inclusion of the experienced deadly duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. Boult was on fire during the Test series against Bangladesh on home turf in February this year, having picked up 13 wickets from two matches – Including a five-wicket as well as a four-wicket haul. On the other hand, Southee had a magnificent spell of 6-65 against Bangladesh in the ODI series. That spell came in the third ODI at Dunedin in February.
Whether their bowling attack offers sufficient threats is questionable. Santner is more of a containing spinner than wicket-taker. Seamers Southee, Boult and Henry are unlikely to strike fear in premier batsman either. As has been evident from matches over the past couple of years, teams with wicket-taking options in the middle overs have been more successful. The major wicket-takers in the middle overs are the wrist spinners; Kuldeep and Chahal for India, Zampa for Australia and Adil Rashid for England. New Zealand, therefore, will be heavily reliant on their wrist spinner to play a similar role.
In favourable conditions, which provide more than a hint of swing, New Zealand can go toe-to-toe with the best. Reach the semis, and from there anything is possible.
NEW ZEALAND AT THE WORLD CUP
New Zealand can be hailed as the underachievers of the ICC World Cup as they looked favourites to win the World Cup in 1992 and 2015. However, some poor performances in the knockout matches led to their defeats in the most important matches.
They have won 48 out of their 79 matches at the World Cup and lost 30 out of them. The Kiwis have played the second most number of World Cup matches (second only to Australia) and have appeared at all the 11 World Cups played from 1975 to 2015.
The Black Caps will play their 12th World Cup when they take the field in England and the Kiwis would love to win their first ever World Cup in the United Kingdom. Brendon McCullum and Martin Crowe have been the best performers for New Zealand at the World Cup.
Played – 79 | Won – 48 | Lost – 30 | Tied/No Result – 1 | Win percentage – 61.53%
1975 – semi-final 1979 – semi-final 1983 – round robin stage 1987 – round robin stage 1992 – semi-final 1996 – quarter-final 1999 – semi-final 2003 – Super Six 2007 – semi-final 2011 – semi-final 2015 – runner up
Highest total: 6-393 v West Indies, Wellington 2015
Lowest total: 112 v Australia, Port Elizabeth 2003
Most runs: In four tournaments Stephen Fleming scored 1075 runs at 35.83 to be New Zealand’s all-time leading run-scorer at World Cups
Most wickets: Right-arm seamer Jacob Oram and left-arm orthodox spinner Daniel Vettori hold the record with 36 wickets. Oram’s average of 21.33, compared to Vettori’s 32.44, gives him the edge. Those two players could be surpassed this tournament by Tim Southee (33 wickets) and Trent Boult (22)
Most dismissals: Hard-hitting batsman Brendon McCullum has the most World Cup dismissals for the Black Caps with 34, 3 of which 2 (30 catches, two stumpings) wearing the keeping gloves
Anything less than the semi-final status quo will be considered a disappointment for the Kiwis. On their day they are capable of shocking anyone but against the top echelon, India and the home favourites England, they need to extract every ounce of talent and even then bank some luck.
Can New Zealand go one better than 2015 this time around? The Black Caps were the feel-good story of that World Cup they hosted with Australia, and Brendon McCullum’s charges played blazing, entertaining cricket all the way to the final at the MCG. En route to the final, the Black Caps edged out Australia in a low-scoring thriller in Auckland before holding their nerve in an epic semi-final at the same venue against the Proteas. In the final – New Zealand’s first – Australia proved too strong but as the saying goes, ‘you’ve got to lose one to win one’, so that mandatory loss is now out of the way. With Kane Williamson at the helm of a team with a potent attack and power in the batting ranks, will 2019 be the year the Black Caps take out their maiden World Cup title?
New Zealand will kick off their campaign against Sri Lanka on 01st June at Cardiff.
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