New Zealand on top, but needs to handle pressure
New Zealand pulled off a comprehensive win over England in their third match of the group stage
So, there it is. New Zealand pulled off a comprehensive win over England in their third match of the group stage to continue their dominance in the World Cup. They have already won their first two games, and with this win, New Zealand are the group leaders with 6 points. With still three more matches to go for them, the Blackcaps are looking to finish the group stage on top so that they would get the chance to play the semi-final on their home ground.
New Zealand have been dominant so far, but are they capable of becoming the World Champions? They have a pretty good squad with all the bases covered. They have solid opening combination and quality batsmen in the middle order in the form of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson who can steady the innings, and have powerful finishers down the order.
In the bowling department, they have a good seam attack that can create problems to the batsmen with swing and seam movement along with pace. Trent Boult’s ability to swing the ball at pace and Tim Southee being more disciplined has been the greatest asset to the Blackcaps.
Can Kiwis handle the pressure?
But the real question is will the Kiwis be able to respond to tough situations? Are they prepared to handle the knock-out stage pressure? How will they react when someone from the opposition dominates the pacers? How Brendon McCullum will react to it? Is he capable of making innovative moves? There are few things which the Blackcaps need to look on.
Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill have not been tested by a quality pace attack, and hence their real test will come against Australia. With Mitchell Starc’s ability to swing the ball, both ways at a good pace, and Hazelwood’s discipline bowling would definitely test the New Zealand’s batting.
Also, New Zealand’s lower order would find it difficult to switch on the gears towards the back end of the innings against a quality pace attack, and therefore, if New Zealand’s batsmen can come out on top against Australia, they would be better prepared for the knock-out stages and will have a good chance to reach the distance in this tournament.
McCullum’s captaincy will be vital
On the other hand, Brendon McCullum’s captaincy will play an important role for New Zealand in the knock-out stages. So far, the bowlers have been exceptional as Trent Boult and Southee have been dominant and that helped McCullum to be aggressive. What will happen to New Zealand when there is set batsmen in the opposition camp? Can McCullum inspire his team intense situation? So far, McCullum as a captain has not been able to make an impact on tense situations.
He runs out of ideas in pressure situations, and quickly moves back into the game. Also, he is not prepared for any kind of circumstances and that could be exposed in the knock-out stages. For instance, in the first one-day match between India and New Zealand, the Kiwis posted a formidable score of 292 runs on the board.
India, in their essay, didn’t get off to a great start, but there was a good partnership of 95 runs between MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli which brought India closer to the target. At the time, McCullum just lacked ideas and quickly went on to the defensive mode when Dhoni and Kohli were at the crease. There was no proper plan from him, and handling of bowlers in the middle overs was also not proper. However, once Dhoni was dismissed, McCullum got into the act and the Kiwis eventually won the match.
The conclusion that can be drawn from the instance is McCullum is not able to react to situations, and that could be a major drawback during the knock-out stages. Therefore, it is important for New Zealand that McCullum stands as an inspirational leader under difficult circumstances.
On the whole, New Zealand have the resources to become the champions, but McCullum has to show them the right way to adverse situations and also, their batsmen need to raise the game as the tournament progresses.