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Tom Blundell: New Zealand’s X-factor in World Cup 2019

Tom Blundell
Tom Blundell
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Sritama Panda

New Zealand's uncapped wonder Tom Blundell maybe a backup wicket-keeper for Tom Latham, but his quality might just earn him a place in the preferred XI in the Black Caps team.

An answer to one of New Zealand’s many unresolved woes was brought into life by their only uncapped player who will step into the World Cup without any prior ODI experience. Incidentally, both of Tom Blundell’s Test and ODI call-ups were a result of injuries to preferred cricketers. And on both occasions, he has justified his worth and selection. The most recent one being his valiant hundred against the West Indies while chasing a gigantic total of 421 in the warm-up fixture ahead of the World Cup.

The Black Caps were the first to announce their preliminary World Cup squad on April 3. The most surprising decision in the squad was the inclusion of Tom Blundell as reserve wicketkeeper- an uncapped player whose total international experience was just 5 games across T20Is and Tests Cricket. The 24-year-old Tim Seifert of Super Smash fame was, of course, the preferred choice but he was unfortunately ruled out due to a finger injury. The inclusion of Blundell was still questioned as for the choice for the backup wicketkeeper could’ve been the more experienced players like Glenn Philips or even their Test Cricket specialist BJ Watling.

Blundell's journey till here

New Zealand v West Indies
New Zealand v West Indies

Dialling backwards, it was December 3, 2017, when Blundell was just three days into his Test debut and marched in gloriously announcing his arrival with a glorious maiden hundred in front of his home crowd at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. By doing so, he had also entered an elite group of wicket-keeper batsmen who’ve scored a century on Test debut. Even then he was incorporated into the squad due to specialist keeper BJ Watling's unavailability.

Quite surprisingly, he only made one red-ball appearance for New Zealand after his glorious maiden hundred. In fact, even his T20I debut came to place when former cricketer Luke Ronchi was ruled out due to an injury during the home series against Bangladesh in early 2017.

Blundell dons keeping gloves in the warm-ups

New Zealand v West Indies
New Zealand v West Indies

Come to today’s date, Blundell was facing the West Indies team again. But it was a different continent, different conditions, no support of the home crowd and most importantly, the pressure of the World Cup without any prior ODI experience, even though it was just a warmup fixture. New Zealand’s hopes were high after a significant win over the Indian brigade in the first warmup game. However, at Bristol, the Calypsos found a familiar set of conditions and made the best possible use of it and registered a massive total of 421(all out in 49.2 overs). Wickets kept tumbling for the Kiwis during their challenging chase they lost three wickets for just 33 runs.

Blundell, who remained not out for 0*(2) in the game against India, came down to bat with Kane Williamson on the other side. The fourth-wicket pair registered a 120-run partnership and helped the team back into the game. In the end, New Zealand lost the game by a huge margin of 91 runs but they sure are taking a few positives with them just ahead of the World Cup. Blundell finished with an 89-ball 106 and Williamson scored 85 off 64 deliveries in the chase.

What's next?

The Black Caps began their World Cup campaign on Saturday, June 1, against Sri Lanka at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff. On the eve of New Zealand's opener against Sri Lanka, it was announced that Latham is cleared to play in it and that meant the 28-year-old Tom Blundell had to wait to once again before one day he finally receives his first ODI cap.

Meanwhile, Colin Munro and Martin Guptill cruised New Zealand's innings to successfully chase an unchallenging target of 137 on Sunday without losing a wicket. Munro was an automatic choice since Henry Nicholls was adjudged unfit right before the match. Amidst all this, the real question is how long will it take for Blundell to make it to the preferred XI after running in circles as a backup for so long?

Also read - Most sixes in world cup year wise

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Edited by Amar Anand
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