New Zealand teams seem to love the global spotlight. Much as they apply their might at other times, they grab attention the most during the World Cup for their noticeable efficiency in the tournament. Since the 1990s, New Zealand has reached the semifinals of the World Cup five times — the same as Australia. Its record in the other major 50-over tournament, the ICC Champions Trophy, is not as enviable but that remains the only global tournament the Kiwis have won. In the second edition of the tournament in Kenya in 2000, New Zealand emerged victorious in a last-over finish against India.
Under the aegis of coach Mike Hesson and captain Kane Williamson, the current team has been competitive in most of its international assignments. A core group of competent players have been together for the last two years, allowing the team to have a settled look. Famously, the seeds had been sown by the team’s collective vision under Brendon McCullum, a development that had its effect in the exciting, free-flowing style of cricket in the 2015 World Cup. New Zealand’s fairytale run culminated in the final, and a message had been delivered.
McCullum’s initiative to look within and find an identity brought forth an adhesive that bound the team together. The fundamental principle of fun was incorporated in the players’ games; when McCullum pulverised bowling attacks upfront and Tim Southee and Trent Boult mesmerised rival batsmen with their aesthetically pleasing swing bowling, the observer witnessed mental clarity as much as quality of play. And importantly, it shone brightly amid the drab atmosphere cricket can conjure up sometimes.
Heroes from that World Cup are still around, and they are in good form. McCullum passed on the baton to the reliable Williamson, who runs the team in his own calm style. He has ensured consistency in his own batting. The skipper is capable of making a seamless switch between formats; soon after scoring two centuries against the quality attack of South Africa in the home Test series, Williamson shone with the bat in the Indian Premier League, making his presence felt with two attacking, match-winning knocks.
The other batting stalwarts, Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, have runs to show in the 50-over format. Taylor scored two centuries recently, against Australia and South Africa, while Guptill provided a reminder of his potential with an unbeaten 180 that flattened the Proteas ahead of what was a relatively modest IPL season for him. Tom Latham has endured a dry spell, but his half-century against Bangladesh in the ODI tri-series in Dublin, Ireland, is an indication of better things to follow.
The bowling line-up in the squad has variety, with swing merchants Southee and Boult sharing space alongside a new find, Colin de Grandhomme, and the faster Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne. The spin unit features off-spinner Jeetan Patel — who was chosen over leg-spinner Ish Sodhi perhaps because of his better knowledge of the English conditions — and left-arm orthodox Mitchell Santner.
New Zealand has won six of the 11 bilateral ODI contests in the last two years; apart from the Australian leg of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, none of New Zealand’s defeats was one-sided. In response to the 3-0 reversal in Australia, it promptly whitewashed its neighbour 2-0 at home. Even in unfamiliar playing conditions in India, and after a gruelling Test series, New Zealand kept the ODI series alive until the fifth and final match, thus displaying a propensity to adapt and not throw in the towel quickly.
The conditions in England during the Champions Trophy will be almost similar to what it is at home, and considering the determination of Williamson & Co., New Zealand could fancy a shy at a second Champions Trophy. After all, its impressive World Cup run was led by the same world-class players who fired collectively.
Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Jimmy Neesham, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee and Ross Taylor.
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