Co-hosts New Zealand strive to claim elusive trophy
Christchurch, Feb 5 (IANS) Six semifinal appearances, good form, players most suited for One-Day International (ODI) cricket and most importantly, playing at home makes New Zealand one of the strongest challengers for the World Cup title.
Never considered a world-conquering side, New Zealand have been consistent at the sport's biggest event. They have punched above their weight and this time they will be striving to get their hands on the trophy.
Decent recent form build-up prior to the quadrennial event should give them immense confidence. The Black Caps outshined 1996 Cup champions Sri Lanka 4-2 in a seven-match ODI series at home. Later, they defeated 1992 champions Pakistan in a two-match series.
Prior to the twin wins, they defeated defending champions India 4-0 last year to begin their Cup preparations on the right foot.
New Zealand may be ranked sixth in the latest ODI rankings but one can expect the co-hosts to thrive at home. New Zealand, who are in Group A, open their World Cup account, against Sri Lanka, on February 14.
Other teams in the Group A are England, co-hosts Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland.
Another factor that will help the seasoned and big-hitting opening batsman Brendon McCullum-led side is that it will play all its matches on their own den. They will only cross over to Australia if they reach the final, which will take place in Melbourne.
The side's attacking batting line-up has been settled for several years now: Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and captain McCullum provide the bulk of the runs with rising star Kane Williamson expected to be the glue that holds the innings together.
The 35-year-old Grant Elliott, a surprise inclusion in the squad after not featuring for 14 months, possesses a calm head and has a strong batting record at home, where he averages 46.37, compared to his career average of 32.62.
All-rounder Corey Anderson is also expected to prominently chip in with both and ball. Anderson gave enough hints of his pyrotechnics when he blasted a 36-ball 100 against the West Indies in 2014, and he is also capable of picking crucial wickets.
Wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi, who scored 170 not out from 99 balls against Sri Lanka last month, has been tipped as the man to bat with the tail-enders.
Former captain and left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori, who is still one of the world's most economical bowlers in limited overs cricket, is expected to tie up one end, while Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan and fast bowler Adam Milne attack at the other end.