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by Krish Sripada Wednesday 4 February 2015
They are called the Black Caps, adorably, by their fans. Proud owners of one of the best World Cup jerseys, sizzling hot on the field with their dives and athleticism and a name etched out for always punching above their weight, New Zealand are co-hosts of the 2015 World Cup.
A year ago, they were in transition, but through 2014, New Zealand have emerged as a strong team in tests and ODIs under their vivacious and charismatic skipper, Brendon McCullum.New Zealand waltz into the World Cup, surprisingly as one of the top three favorites, besides heavyweights Australia and South Africa. This is because they blanked out two reasonably good teams, first thrashing Sri Lanka 4-2 and then moving on to bully Pakistan 2-0.
About the only team that is close to that kind of form is the other co-host, Australia, which picked up the Carlton Trophy almost like it was a walk in the park, going unbeaten through the tournament.Besides the obvious belief, home advantage and an inspirational captain in Brendon McCullum, New Zealand actually have some solid performers and stats to speak of their sizeable challenge at this World Cup.
In the last 12 months, New Zealand have won nine and lost six ODIs, an impressive win-ratio that got better as time went by. More importantly, they have posted some amazing come-from-behind victories speaking volumes of their attitude. They are also one of the very few teams ticking all four boxes – stable batting order, all-rounders, good pacers, good spinner - giving them a team that can fight under most conditions, not to mention their blazing fast fielders.Previous Tournament Performances:New Zealand has played 70 World Cup matches, only next to Australia, winning 40 and losing 29 for a W/L record of 1.379, which is not impressive at all. Only Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have a worse ratio amongst test playing nations.
New Zealand have made it to the semi-finals five times - 1975, 1979, 1992, 1999 and 2011. New Zealand have never made it to the World Cup final. The closest they had ever come was in 1992, when the World Cup was held down under, when inspired by their captain Martin Crowe, they finished top of the table before heartbreakingly losing to Pakistan in the semi-finals, courtesy of an Inzamam-ul-Haq blitz that is talked of even to this day.
That campaign, like their present one, boasted of an explosive opener in Mark Greatbatch, a talismanic captain and a solid middle order. It remains to be seen, if New Zealand will repeat that glorious performance.
They are probably, in home conditions, the second best team in their pool after Australia, which could allow them the luxury of meeting an underperforming team from Pool B in the quarter-finals.Group Fixtures:
New Zealand belong to Pool A along with Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, Scotland and Sri Lanka.
14th February – New Zealand v Sri Lanka in Christchurch17th February – New Zealand v Scotland in Dunedin20th February – New Zealand v England in Wellington28th February – New Zealand v Australia in Auckland8th March – New Zealand v Afghanistan in Napier13th March – New Zealand v Bangladesh in Hamilton
New Zealand are on a roll, having won both their home series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan recently. They defeated Sri Lanka in the seven match series, 4-2 and whitewashed Pakistan 2-0.
They have an astonishing record of seven wins in their last 10 ODIs.
(recent) W, W, L, W, W, W, NR, L, W, W
Daniel Vettori is the only bowler in the current squad to feature in top 50 leading wicket takers in World Cups. He ranks 44 having picked 21 wickets in the 23 matches.
New Zealand in World Cups have a W/L ratio of 1.379 having won 40 matches from the overall 70.
New Zealand have won seven out of their nine World Cup games, playing in New Zealand.
Brendon McCullum (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Luke Ronchi (wk), Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson.
Coach : Mike Hesson
Players to Watch:New Zealand isn’t heavily reliant on one player for their success. They have quite a few players capable of winning matches.Kane Williamson, who stroked a sublime century, is their best batsman and definitely the fulcrum around which the New Zealand batting attack revolves. With 753 runs, he is also New Zealand’s top run-getter in the last twelve months, miles ahead of Ross Taylor (585) and Luke Ronchi (573).Corey Anderson, who held the fastest century record briefly is probably one of the most exciting all-rounders featuring in this World Cup. With 263 runs and 17 wickets, he has been New Zealand’s best all-rounder in the last twelve months. Along with Daniel Vettori, he could really give New Zealand tail the steel needed to compete in high-pressure games, the X-factor that they have missed for long.Grant Elliott, one part of a record breaking partnership with Luke Ronchi, is one of the most promising batsmen in the New Zealand attack. In his last seven matches, he average 71.5 at 95.01. He can bowl a bit too, with six wickets in those seven matches, another genuine all-rounder who could be New Zealand’s trump card.Prediction:New Zealand are all set to make it to their sixth World Cup semi-final, going on team strength and current performances. New Zealand are likely to finish above Sri Lanka, taking number two spot in their pool, which could pit them against India, Pakistan or West Indies (assuming South Africa finishes top of the other pool), teams they will definitely fancy their chances against.
A South Africa – New Zealand semi-final clash would be particularly exciting considering their bad blood after the 2011 World Cup quarter-finals.Conclusion: New Zealand will have form, home support and talent on their side at this World Cup. For a change, they are not dark horses, but genuine contenders this time. For a change, there are expectations on this team, a new pressure-territory they will have to vanquish!
© Cricket World 2015