Dubai: New Zealand have been the most consistent in the history of ICC 50-over World Cups. They have entered the semi-finals for the ninth time in 13 editions, including two runners-up finishes in the last two World Cups.
New Zealand don’t believe in the power of star value, but instead have always had proven match-winners, serving the team good over the years. Their consistent performance each time proves that every individual in the team fulfils his role to perfection. Hence, they were able to offset the lack of superstars with individual performances. Heroes are born every single day of the battle and put the team’s cause ahead of personal milestones.
Williamson back at the helm
The Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson, who missed the league encounter with India at Dharamsala due to injury, will be back at the helm and will be banking on three left-handers to lead the Kiwis past the in-form hosts in the semi-finals in Mumbai on Wednesday. Fast bowler Trent Boult and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner will be keen to shine in the bowling department, while the young left-handed sensation Rachin Ravindra will be eager to make a mark once again while facing India.
Boult and Santner could pose a big threat for India. Boult and Santner could pose a big threat for India. Boult, in one spell, showed how lethal he can be against India in the rain-affected World Cup semi-finals in 2019, he subsequently produced another stunning spell to push India out of the Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai. Though the conditions in India are far different from the one he had at Manchester, Boult, who had played for Mumbai Indians, knows how to make the most of the Wankhede pitch, which is expected to be dry and assist the batters more.
But both bowlers operate at different stages for New Zealand, with at least one of them available for most part to lead the challenge. The duo have been the biggest asset for Williamson, and stand-in skipper Tom Latham, during this World Cup. They have a good knowledge of the conditions after numerous years of playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with various franchises.
Quick to go to Plan B
“Personally, I like to see the ball swinging around and moving in the air. To be honest, it hasn’t really done that much throughout this World Cup. And it almost took me back to my younger days when you’re playing ODI cricket for the first time, the first question you have to ask yourself is, do you keep trying to swing the ball or go to plan B as quick as you can and might have been a little bit quicker,” the left-arm pacer told a press conference, which shows his adaptability to the varying situations and conditions.
“Conditions change right throughout the country and it’s always the hardest thing to read the wicket and what’s going to happen. And some days we’ve come up against some good batters, some positive stroke play and it’s just been how it is. I can’t speak on what they’re thinking, but from our point of view to play World Cup in India and to come up against the host nation a team that’s red-hot playing good cricket at a great ground — you couldn’t script it any better. We’ve done all we can from our point of view and we’ll just wait and see what happens,” the 34-year-old said ahead of the semi-finals. Boult might not be at his menacing best so far with just 13 wickets from nine matches with the best figures of 3 for 37, but he knows how to up the ante at the right time.
But for Santner, the hosts provide a bigger challenge as they put their best foot forward playing spin. But the left-arm spinner is confident that he will be able to do his job against India. In the last match at Dharamsala, Santner turned in the best figures with one for 37 in 10 overs, which is a testimony to the respect that he has earned from the Indian batters.
Bowling in partnerships
“It’s obviously nice to come here and see the ball spin a little bit, you don’t really get those in New Zealand. The bowling unit as a whole has been bowling in partnerships, and we’ve been bowling pretty well,” Santner said after one of the league matches.
“We know they’re going to obviously be a challenge at home. We’ve just got to kind of keep doing the same, keep focused on the things we want to and how we want to play.”
Santner has learnt a few tricks during his stint with Chennai Super Kings and the left-arm spinner, based on his knowledge, has started bowling at a slower pace than normal. With his height, he is able to extract more bounce and turn on the slow pitches, which has caught many by surprise in this edition.
“When we turn up for IPL, we’ve played on wickets that kind of look similar, but played lot different during World Cup. It obviously had more pace and bounce so it’s tough to tell. It was nice to see the spin in second innings a little bit more than the first,” he had replied to the question from Gulf News after the match against Afghanistan in Chennai. Santner has so far claimed 16 wickets from nine matches.
Ravindra has been having a dream run in this World Cup. By giving the 23-year-old a chance in this showpiece, New Zealand management has proved how they back talents and provide them with the opportunity immediately, instead of making them wait for long. During the match against Sri Lanka in Bengaluru, Ravindra also had the chance to meet his grandmother, where his father grew up before migrating to Auckland.
“It’s so special. Growing up here [Bengaluru] I have some great memories. I get to connect with my family and it’s more special to qualify for the knockouts while playing here. I love playing here and I hope I get to play more in the future here,” the left-handed opener, who has so far scored 565 runs to be third behind Virat Kohli and Quinton de Kock on the World Cup batting charts, posted on social media.
Latham put the New Zealand’s ideology in a nutshell, saying that they will stick to their game plan that has taken them into the last two finals.
“Our consistency in World Cups is about trying to play our brand of cricket as best we can. For us sticking to our game plan and trying to do that for long periods of time and stay in the game for as long as possible has been the key to what we’ve done. Obviously, the last two ODI World Cups have been obviously in Australia and England where conditions are reasonably similar to back home, whereas this one’s obviously completely different,” the left-hander said.