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“New Zealand have blown hot and cold in the 50-over format in the last 12 months or so. However, they have always tended to punch above their weight and have always been the dark horse going into the World Cup”

In less than two months, ten top teams from around the world will be fighting for one elusive trophy, the ICC Cricket World Cup. It’s the World Cup year and the world is buzzing. With the showpiece event starting on the 30th of May, the deadline to announce the squads has been set as 23rd April.

However, New Zealand in a move of their own decided to dish out the World Cup squad 20 days before the deadline. But this is nothing new from the Kiwis. They have always found a new and different way of announcing squads. For tours, they tend to announce the squad partially if there is an impending ‘A’ tour and then announce the rest of the squad.

On Wednesday (April 3rd), New Zealand announced their 15-member squad for the World Cup. They became the first team to announce the team for the mega event. Gary Stead, the head coach, said that it’s really exciting to be the first team to put down their World Cup squad. “The World Cup is the pinnacle of cricket and to be the first nation to name a squad for the tournament is really exciting. I’d like to congratulate all the players selected. To represent your country at a World Cup is a huge honour and I know the entire squad and support staff are looking forward to the challenges ahead,” he was quoted saying.

Squad: Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Tom Blundell (wk), Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Ish Sodhi, Henry Nicholls, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Jimmy Neesham. 

Most of the squad was on the expected lines barring a couple of surprises. New Zealand seem to have quite a bit of depth and experience in the side. Though Kane Williamson will be leading the side for the first time in World Cup cricket, he will be playing his third World Cup. Moreover, in both the World Cups he’s played, New Zealand reached the semi-final (2011) and final (2015). Meanwhile, veteran Ross Taylor who has been in phenomenal form will be playing his fourth World Cup. The likes of Tim Southee and Martin Guptill will be playing their third World Cup as well.

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Most of the squad picks itself. Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls and Tom Latham will share the bulk of the batting responsibility. Most of them have been in good nick in white-ball cricket this year. Barring Tom Latham who has blown hot and cold, all the other aforementioned players average over 40 this year in ODI cricket. In fact, Taylor, Williamson and Guptill have been very consistent over the last few years. Batting one after the other, they have lent solidity to the batting line-up.

James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner are the all-rounders picked. Neesham’s comeback to international cricket was a fabulous one. He has played the role of the power-hitter in the middle and has chipped in with vital wickets at crucial junctures. He lends balance to the side while de Grandhomme and Santner have been around for a while. They have been around the New Zealand set-up for a while and have done well. De Grandhomme beat Doug Bracewell who did quite well in the recent past in the race for the second all-rounder’s spot.

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Meanwhile, Ish Sodhi will partner Santner in the spin department. Sodhi has overtaken Todd Astle in the race of leg-spinners. Astle was picked ahead of the Ludhiana-born leg-spinner in the recent past but the selectors have opted to go back to Sodhi who has a decent experience.

On the other hand, the fast bowlers pick themselves. Trent Boult will lead the pace attack with Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry forming the rest of the group. Southee was left out of a few games and will be keen to earn his place back in the XI. Boult has been simply brilliant over the last few years and has led the Kiwi pace attack really well across all formats. Lockie Ferguson has the pace as well and he can ruffle up the opposition batsmen.

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There’s a place for the out-of-form Colin Munro as well. He has partnered Guptill at the top for quite long but has failed to make a mark in ODI cricket. The only other place that was up for debate was that of the second wicket-keeper’s and that has been filled by Tom Blundell. He pips Tim Seifert who has been a regular second choice wicket-keeper for the Kiwis. However, he injured his thumb on the last day of the New Zealand domestic season and that went against him. Also, it is Blundell’s keeping that went in his favour. He has been one of the most consistent glovemen in New Zealand over the last few years.

Hence, the Kiwis have good depth and seem to have all bases covered. However, a couple of issues to worry about. Who will open with Martin Guptill? Colin Munro hasn’t been up to the mark in ODI cricket while Henry Nicholls was the latest to open the batting and did well in the limited opportunities. Also, how many all-rounders fo they pick? Neesham, de Grandhomme and Santner are the choices. Will all three make it to the XI?

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New Zealand have blown hot and cold in the 50-over format in the last 12 months or so. However, they have always tended to punch above their weight and have always been the dark horse going into the World Cup.

New Zealand kickstart their World Cup campaign on the 1st of June against Sri Lanka. However, before that, they have a few training camps and a few practice games against their Trans-Tasmanian rival Australia in the lead-up to the World Cup.

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