Despite being one of the strongest sides in world cricket, New Zealand have lacked the spice and flavour, which teams like India and Australia possess. Their cricketing chronicles scaled newer heights under the belligerent captaincy of Brendon McCullum, where they made it to the final of 2015 World Cup final but lost the battle to Australia. In the recent times, they have done reasonably well under the astute captaincy of Kane Williamson and the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy 2017 would serve as an ideal platform to show the world what they are made of.
New Zealand are currently placed at fourth position in the ICC One-Day International (ODI) team rankings. They have had a mixed run in this format in the recent times, winning six out of the 11 ODI series played after the World Cup. Barring the recently concluded ODI series against South Africa, they have won all the series at home, which is a noteworthy achievement. However, the same confidence has gone for a toss when they lock horns on foreign soil. They have won just a solitary series against Zimbabwe out of five played overseas since the 2015 World Cup.
The Kane Williamson-led New Zealand side have picked quite a predictable squad for the coveted tournament. They haven’t mad any surprise inclusion as a team for such high-voltage tournaments are not created overnight. A combination of experience and firepower, New Zealand have a well-balanced side going into the tournament but will this team click in English conditions? Is the question in every Kiwi fan’s mind.
What stands between a champion side and others is performance. A team may look solid and inspire immense confidence on paper but what matters the most is the performance on the field. New Zealand find themselves in a tough group, to begin with. They are placed alongside Australia, England and Bangladesh. Both Australia and England are heavyweights and strong contenders for the title while Bangladesh have made a wild card entry after 11 long years and in no mood to relax. They have created massive upsets in the past and one can expect that to happen in these encounters as well.
A strong batting line-up
New Zealand have a well-balanced squad to choose from. At the top, they have the hard-hitting Martin Guptill, who is a proven champion in this format, along with Tom Latham. The latter has looked good but has been struggling with consistency, this is his golden opportunity to justify his selection and get his team off to good starts. Guptill can wreak havoc if gets going and inflict immense damage at the top. The top-order looks good but New Zealand don’t have enough options for back-up.
At three comes the reliable Kane Williamson, who needs no introduction. If New Zealand are eyeing to have a good run in this tournament, then Williamson and simultaneously the top-order has to score a lot of runs. In the middle-order, they have Ross Taylor, Neil Broom, Luke Ronchi along with impactful all-rounders like Mitchell Santner, Corey Anderson, James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme. Their middle-order lack specialist batsmen and is filled with all-rounders, which may also turn into a disadvantage at times.
Brilliant bowling attack
Their pace battery hails of Trent Boult, Adam Milne, Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan along with part-timers Anderson, Neesham and Grandhomme. Their pace attack wear a dominant look with the presence of Boult, McClenaghan and Southee. Boult was the joint highest wicket-taker in the 2015 World Cup, which is a testament to his ability to perform in big tournaments while McClenaghan has had a solid run in the ongoing Indian Premier League. Mitchell Santner and Jeetan Patel are the only spinners as England will hardly have anything to offer to the spinners.
New Zealand will play their opening game against Australia at Edgbaston, which has a reputation of aiding the spinners a bit. But one can expect the venues to be flatter and assist batting big time. Australia have most of their bases covered to come out hard on such tracks and New Zealand certainly needs to bring their best game out in order to contain the World Champions and seek revenge for the 2015 World Cup defeat.
New Zealand then move to Sophia Gardens for their second clash against England, which is again a flat batting track. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the fate of this match will be highly based on the batting firepower a team possesses. England have one of the most entertaining yet effective batting line-ups in the tournament, which means New Zealand have to be exceptional either with the bat or ball.
The final encounter of the league stage will be also played at Sophia Gardens against Bangladesh. Despite New Zealand being favourites going into this match, one just can’t afford to underestimate Bangladesh. Looking at the way New Zealand have fared on foreign soil in this format, they do have a mountain to climb in this tournament but with the benefit of playing their full strength, expect New Zealand to do well. But how well, remains a mystery, which only time will unveil. They are by far not the favourites but well equipped to script a journey from underdogs to champions.