World Cup: NZ's priority to make semifinals, says Mike Hesson

The former coach of the Black Caps said that the team needs to have a strategy to survive the middle overs of an innings and focus on its spin bowling, which could be handy in English conditions.


Former New Zealand coach Mike Hesson   -  Getty Images

New Zealand had its best performance in a World Cup in 2015, when the team coached by Mike Hesson displayed a fiery brand of cricket but conceded the title to arch-rival Australia.

While Kane Williamson’s men have had the perfect start to the 2019 campaign, defeating India in a warm-up match on Saturday, Hesson, who quit as coach last year, feels the team’s first priority will be to book a berth in the semifinals.

In an exclusive chat with Sportstar, Hesson spoke on New Zealand’s chances and more...

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What are your thoughts on the New Zealand team this time around?

Obviously their first priority is to try to make the semifinals and that in itself will be a tough challenge.

I think there’s England, India and probably Australia... There’s three or four other sides trying to get four spots, and I think it’s New Zealand (chance) to get (to the) semifinals. They need two good days out there. I think the key thing is to be consistent over the next six weeks, something that New Zealand has been very good at in recent times.

It’s one of the most consistent sides going around and doesn’t often really put in a poor performance. So I think that the challenge for them is making sure that the experienced players who have been to a few World Cups play a dominant role and the youngsters just sort of fit in around them. So there’s enough experience here, that’s for sure.

READ | World Cup: India fails to impress in warm-up, loses to New Zealand

A lot has been spoken about Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson. With so many seniors around, what would be their roles?

I think Guptill, Williamson and (Ross) Taylor will go down as three of New Zealand’s greats of all time. They have all three of them in the World Cup, plus (Tim) Southee and (Trent) Boult. These are five guys who are New Zealand greats and in many years time, they will be talked about like that. So you have got five players who are that good and have performed over such a period of time, and you’ve also got the likes of (Tom) Latham, (Mitchell) Santner, who I think in time will be one of those as well. So you’ve got a really good nucleus of players and I think they’ve played well in the England conditions.

I think the challenge for any side is getting through the middle overs. I don’t think anyone would suggest that the surface of the Oval (in the warm-up game against India) is going to be like what it is throughout the tournament. So the spinners are obviously gonna have to play a big role. Santner and Ish Sodhi are gonna have to do a job through the middle overs, take what they get rather than just keep it tight


New Zealand's Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson   -  Getty Images

READ | Trent Boult: Win over India has given New Zealand confidence

Over the years, the English conditions have changed. These days, bowlers struggle as batsmen make merry and pile up big scores. How challenging will life be for batsmen and bowlers in this World Cup?

That’s where experience will come into it... Assessing whether the conditions are 300-plus or whether they actually need to scrap and fight a little bit against your ball and you get your rewards later on. And that’s why you do need experience at the top of the order for guys that can judge that... It is gonna be tough and if we get through, we might still be able to do 300, but we’ll do it different way, whereas the sides that just play on team power will struggle.

This time the format has changed. Every team is playing nine games in the league stage. What should the teams keep in mind at this stage?

The challenge of this tournament is that there will be no easy games. Therefore, if you think that you wanna peak towards the back end of the tournament, you might not actually be involved in that. So the reality is that come the 31st of May or the first game, you have got to be on song. You have got to be on song for nine games. You can’t have a couple of poor days out because you are also going to come against a couple of sides that are gonna be pretty hard as well. So you might lose for and then you’re scraping.

So for me it’s one of those ones where you get four years to get yourself ready, come the end of May or first of June, whenever your game is. You just can’t ease into the tournament.

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