Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Team New Zealand, World Cup 2011

GROUP A (Australia, Canada, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe)

Team - New Zealand
ODI Rank - 7
ODI Rating - 91

Last World Cup - Semi-finals
Finals Appearances - 7
Best in a World Cup- Semi Finals '75, '79, '92, '99, '07


Daniel Vettori (c), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum (wk), Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock.

Strength - long batting line up
Weakness - form


The Kiwis come into this world cup on the back of a dismal performance for the past few months, which will surely be the among worst in their cricketing history. They didn't manage an entry into the Tri-Nation finals in Sri Lanka, were blanked 4-0 in B'desh, blanked 5-0 in India and lost 3-2 to Pakistan at home. If you notice, They have lost in all the three host nations and lost to the other subcontinental nation too. Not looking good at all for the semi-finalists from the previous edition.

Their squad is as best as it can look, bolstered by the presence of returning "Big Jake" Jacob Oram and Scott Styris. NZ have had multiple problems all year long and have not yet addressed them. First of it - the misfiring captaincy. Vettori is a good leader, but somehow it is not paying dividends. Vettori, as an individual is performing great, and the team is showing good spirit in the game...but so are Afghanistan, who have qualified to play ODIs and against top-tier teams by winning Associate Nations trophy last year.

The second problem, that has led to many more minor ones - opening. In the past 2 or 3 years, the Kiwis have had more opening pair changes than rest of the world put together. They now have Guptill, Ryder and Brendon McCullum (Baz) who can open, but even after playing 5 whole games, NZ are not sure who would open and who would drop down to the middle order. All three of them are destructive in their own ways, Guptill being the most traditional of them, making sure that he would be one of the two openers for sure. Ryder comes back into the squad after having many issues, health and otherwise. Ryder is strong and more athletic than he looks to be. He whiplashes into the leg side and cover drives are a treat to watch. Baz is a natural striker of the ball, just that he hasn't been in touch with his habitat for a while. Another option for the opening slot - Jamie How....until they find out How exactly...

At one-drop, NZ would have Ross Taylor, who is a class apart. He can whip you square through the off side, or step across and heave you over the cow corner and square leg. Bowling two deliveries at the same spot to Taylor might not be wise. If he is given the time to settle, it would be more difficult to dislodge him than pronounce his complete name (Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor) without assistance 20 times in a minute. Taylor will be joined by the young Kane Williamson who finally got going after a poor start to this ODI career. He is aggressive and has shown quite some promise in Indian and B'deshi conditions. Then comes in Scott Styris, who has quietly become more aggressive since the last world cup. He was the player who would exactly fit into the boots of Chris Harris... Just that, Styris is even better. He seems to score with ease with the bat, be it nudge around to keep the scoreboard tickin', or shoot the moon with some lusty blows. At 6 would be the opener who didn't get the opening slot.

At 7 would be James Franklin, who returned to international cricket as an all-rounder, having left as a bowler who couldn't perform at the highest levels. Since his return, it took the opponents 6 games at the cost of more than 240 runs to get him out for the first time. He remained not out in the three games in India, and Pakistan were not very quick in learning how to dismiss him either. Franklin's return has helped NZ fill a spot that was usually held by Oram. Franklin very handy batsmen, who is under-rated, will make you pay for your negligence, and can send down 7-10 overs of controlled medium pace. Big Jake Oram would mostly follow him at no.8 position. A big hitter and (now) a medium pacer difficult to put away with, he could be handy to extract bounce in Indian conditions. But, at his pace, it must not be as much a concern to the batsmen as his precise line-and-length.

Leaving 3 slots for bowlers (or, bowling all-rounders), since there are many all-rounders already would most probably be occupied by Vettori, Mills and either of Bennett and Southee. Vettori is one of the finest spinners to be now playing. Impeccable line and length, and creative strategies, mixed with patience, more like playing on the patience of the batsmen and waiting for them to step into a trap. He is more than a handy batsman, and is probably the most dependable of them all! Kyle Mills has been the mainstay of the NZ bowling line up. He can swing the ball at good pace and is very menacing with his line, since the ball gathers more bounce than most others can extract off the sub-continent pitches. Mills' tall frame helps. Bennett, the new comer bowls hard and heavy balls, and has a reputation to bowl well directed slow balls (bouncers, especially). But, he is also known to be inaccurate and sprays the ball around, the last thing you would want your only other pure paceman to do. Southee, on the other hand came in as a wonderful prospect from the 2008 u-19 WC team, and since then has dropped pace and lost venom. But, he still remains a possible threat, mostly because of the ability to put in the extra effort on pace and bounce, and provide a little seam-movement with the new-ball.

Nathan McCullum will be looking to take the spot that Jacob Oram is presently trying so hard to gain. The subcontinental conditions would suit Nathan too. He is an explosive batsman, and right now, he is the better batsman from his family. Luke Woodcock is another slow-bowling all-rounder in the NZ reserves. Not much is known of him in the international stage, but the veteran has had a good few seasons at domestic level to get the big promotion...timely one indeed.

NZ play Kenya, Australia, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Canada and Sri Lanka in that order... Giving them a breather before every big game.

So, will the perennial semi-finalists finally take it a couple of steps further? Can the Kiwis fly? Will they play against two of their worst enemies - injuries and betrayal of hope? NZ have had all the talent they can want. They also have the guidance of the finest (hard hitting) batsman in Greatbatch and one the most feared bowlers to have treaded the world, Alan Donald. But, in the end, it will be the job of those XI on the field to complete the work.

They will play the QF, but then on, it will be anyone's guess. They will have to play upto their capabilities to really pull off any upset at all.

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