Current ODI ranking: No. 4
Main man: Kane Williamson
Appearances: 1975, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015.
Best: Runners-up 1 (2015)
Squad: 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.
Abu Dhabi: Write the Kiwis off at your own peril — that’s the stern warning the New Zealanders have sent to their rivals soon after they set their foot on the shores of England, ahead of the World Cup campaign.
The warm-up triumph against one of the firm favourites — Virat Kohli’s Team India — would have forced some of the pundits to reassess their predictions.
So authoritative was the rout that it would have lit up the Kiwi camp, inducing enough self-belief that they have the right credentials to go all the way.
The Black Caps don’t have the same euphoria that surrounded them in 2015 under the big-hitting Brendon McCullum, who led them brilliantly to their first final before losing out on the title to Australia. Fast forward to 2019, they are now led by an equally astute Kane Williamson.
The calm demeanour he instils within the squad is phenomenal and the acumen with which he bats is equally crucial. The skipper looked at ease in his destruction of the Indian bowlers in his knock of 67, as the Blacks Caps knocked off their target of 180 with ease with 13 overs to spare. The knock endorsed his love affair with English conditions as he now has nine 50-plus scores in 11 matches.
Williamson and the experienced Ross Taylor will be shouldering the majority of the batting responsibilities. Taylor got the much-needed workout in his knock of 71 against India. His match-winning stand of 114 runs with Williamson was an assurance that he is in good nick. Martin Guptill adds stability at the top while stumper Tom Latham, if he recovers from injury, will beef up the middle order with big-hitting James Neesham and Mitchell Santner slotted at six and seven to accelerate the innings.
The bowling is also a perfect blend with Trent Boult spearheading the pace attack. Boult is the leading wicket-taking seamer in the world since the 2015 World Cup, accumulating 107 wickets in 54 matches. He gave enough evidence that he is keen to continue in the same vein by finishing with a four-wicket haul to break the back of India’s top order, which included Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul. Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson and Tim Southee also add further depth to the attack.
New Zealander’s major worry will be their over dependency on Williamson and Taylor. The rival teams will also be looking to exploit New Zealand’s weakness against spin. Barring Williamson and Latham, the rest including Taylor and Guptill are vulnerable against spin and it will be interesting to see how they cope with teams that possess a good spin attack. Spinners Ish Sodhi and Santner will have to up their game. Both were carted for 19 and 18 runs respectively in their three overs in the warm-up match against India.
Tom Blundell, wicketkeeper-batsman has been roped in at the last minute as a backup to Latham, who is nursing a finger injury. The 29-year-old has represented New Zealand in two Tests and three T20s but is yet to make his ODI debut and this serves has a huge platform for him. It has been a struggle with the bat for Colin Munro but the selectors have still backed him and he will have a point to prove whenever he gets an opportunity in case Henry Nicholls doesn’t open with Guptill. Munro, however, did very little good to his confidence in the warm-up after being dismissed for four.
New Zealand have always lost their way in the business end of the tournament, something they would have definitely talked about. However, with matches lined up straight away against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the Kiwis can gain a lot of momentum before heading into the latter part of the tournament. The team will also be fretting over the injury to Latham, who missed the first warm-up and has also been ruled out for the second. In case Latham misses out on a few matches, Blundell will be behind the stumps and his inexperience might hurt the Kiwis.