Possessing a squad capable of producing results way above anyone’s expectations, perennial dark horse New Zealand will look to part ways with the misfortune they associate themselves with in the World Cups. After making it to the semis for six time, they had finally been in the final during the 2015 World Cup before losing it to Australia. However, they would hope to get their hands at the coveted trophy for the first time. Having defeated the tournament favourites India, they will start the mega event riding high on confidence and self-believe.
With one of the most compelling bowling attack and a reasonably strong batting line-up, the Kiwis would again look to make it to the business end of the showpiece event, which has witnessed days vivid entertainment from the Black Caps. With the league format being reintroduced this time, pundits and players alike have been of the view that this would be the most hard fought World Cup ever. However, the new format might just give the Kane Williamson-led side an advantage over others. Set to face Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in their first three matches, they have a chance to build early momentum before running into the big guns.
They boast a strong top-order batting unit, in the form of their skipper and best player Kane Williamson and the experienced Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, which will get aid from the batting friendly pitches in England. The middle order also look compact with power-hitting all-rounders James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme providing the fireworks at the death. It would be unwise to underestimate Colin Munro, who can win a match single-handedly on his day. Another aspect that would help the team is the presence of experience player in large extent. While Ross Taylor is heading for his fourth World Cup, the likes of KAne Williamson, Martin Guptill and Tim Southee are making their third appearance in the showpiece event. However, if New Zealand are to win this time Williamson will have to work overtime along with Taylor and Guptill, who averages nearly 47 with 652 runs in England.
In the bowling front, the experienced duo of Boult and Southee would be shouldering the bulk of responsibilities with the new ball, while Lockie Ferguson’s raw pace is set to add an extra dimension to their fast-bowling unit. Southee, who had single-handedly destroyed England with 7-33 in the last edition, has found it hard to get into his top gear and will look to regain his form early in the tournament. However, his partnership with Boult will be crucial to New Zealand’s fortunes upfront, lead spinner Mitchell Santner will come into play in the middle overs. could have a partner in Ish Sodhi, who was one of the surprise selections alongside Tom Blundell, picked as a back-up wicketkeeper for Tom Latham, who is recovering from a fractured finger.
New Zealand Squad-
Kane Williamson (C), Tom Blundell (WK), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (WK), Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.
(With inputs from PTI)