Learning from 2019
For some, New Zealand’s heartbreak in the 2019 ODI World Cup final spelt disaster. It was their best-ever chance at a World Cup and it was a game they probably should have won before the interventions of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, a dodgy call from the Umpire on overthrows, a dropped catch off Stokes and that fateful Super Over which they ended up losing to England.
They can’t go back in time and play out those last overs again but they can learn. Yes, it’s a different format but the way they won tight games in the Group Stages, outplayed India in the semi-final and had good plans throughout.
If they can just handle those two or three high-pressure moments this time round, they could just pull it off.
Best T20 side they’ve ever had?
Quite possibly. The usual story with New Zealand is they have eight or nine top class players and one or two making up the numbers. Not this time.
If anything, this time they have tough choices to make, always a good sign that you’ve got a squad full of players with real quality where you have a problem not knowing who to leave out.
They have a highly experienced trio of top order batsmen in Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor, while wicket-keeper batsman Devon Conway and Finn Allen are both exciting prospects.
They have to decide on who to go with from Dayl Mitchell, Mark Chapman and Glenn Philllipps for those middle-order spots and whether they need to keep going with big-hitting all-rounder Colin de Grandhommne or if they feel youngster Kyle Jamieson is enough as a genuine all-rounder.
Or they could field Jamieson alongside the consistent James Neesham.
They then have three good spinners to pick from in Todd Astle, Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner and then it’s their choice from among the pacemen: Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Matt Henry, Adam Milne and Lockie Ferguson.
It means they can keep the same eight or nine players and then pick the other three based on the conditions on the day. Whoever they pick is going to make up a really strong side. If it were up to us, this is how they’d line up in that first game.
Bet India suggested XI: Conway, Guptill, Williamson, Taylor, Phillips, Neesham, Jamieson, Santner, Southee, Boult, Sodhi.
Williamson is the real deal
Take a look at the men who are going to captain their sides at the upcoming World Cup. Who stands out as a natural leader of men, a tactically astute skipper, a man with fresh ideas who can keep his cool under pressure and win a game with a masterstroke of a fielding or bowling change?
England’s Eoin Morgan qualifies and so does the West Indies’ Kieron Pollard…just about. Just about because he’s still relatively inexperienced as an international captain.
Virat Kohli? No thanks. He’s already had enough opportunities both with RCB in the IPL and India in T20 World Cups (not to mention ODI World Cups) to lead his team to glory and he’s failed every time.
He’s too intense, rarely comes up with unorthodox tactics that can make a difference and doesn’t always create the best atmosphere and energy on the field.
Williamson is a very different beast. His players love him and love playing for him. He’s the calmest man on the field on any field. He has a good instinct for when to stick or twist in terms of taking risks. He often knows which bowling changes to make that can get a wicket or keep the runs down depending on the batsmen at the crease.
For good measure, he’s a world-class T20 batsman with 13 T20I fifties from 67 games and a very decent average of 31.66 at international level. Even his strike rate, often the subject of criticism, isn’t bad at all at 125.
Other strings to their bow
The reasons why New Zealand could go deep don’t end there.
Their bowling looks extremely good. They’ll probably play two spinners in Sodhi and Santner and then it’s Jamieson as the all-rounder and two (or three) from Southee, Boult, Henry, Milne and Ferguson. That’s a spin threat that’s very capable. Maybe not to the same extent as India or Pakistan but it’s good nonetheless.
We’ll have to wait and see which fast bowlers they’ll play but perhaps only Pakistan (again) and Australia have what they have.
They’re also an excellent fielding side. Williamson, Guptill and (surprisingly) fast bowler Trent Boult are particularly agile and good catchers. But they’re all good. As we discussed when profiling India’s Ravindra Jadeja, top fielding can change games.
They also have the so-called blend of youth and experience. The likes of Southee, Taylor and Williamson have seen it all before while players like Jamieson and Allen have that fearlessness that only comes with youth.
New Zealand are currently the 10.0 fourth-favourites with Betway to go and win what would be their first-ever World Cup in any format.
At the odds, they certainly represent considerably better value than favourites India, England and Australia do.