World Cup 2019: Dark horses New Zealand look primed to spring a surprise or two
- A team that loves to punch above its weight on the biggest cricketing stage, New Zealand will fancy its chances of making a deep run.
When it comes to the ICC Cricket World Cup people always talk about Australia's history, India's superstars, Pakistan's talent and England's form (whether good or bad), but one team that slips under the radar is New Zealand.
New Zealand have never won a World Cup, but across the tournament's history, they have always punched above their weight, displaying a level of consistency that can be matched by few others.
New Zealand weren't considered the favourites even when they were playing at home during the last World Cup but their unit is cohesive and gels well together, allowing them to outperform superior opponents on the big stage.
New Zealand have made it to the quarterfinals once, semi-finals 6 times (1975, 1979, 1992, 1999, 2007, 2011), and finals once (2015). This is a sensational record and also evidence that they have what it takes to perform on the grandest stage of them all.
New-Zealand as a team are far from flamboyant and the fact that they stay away from the limelight makes them even more dangerous.
This year, they have a solid team with match-winners in each department and a captain who maximizes the resources he has at his disposal. Kane Williamson does not have the aura of a Virat Kohli or Steve Smith but he is equally important as both captain and batsman for his team.
Williamson averages 45.90 in ODIs and with Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham alongside him, he can help post big scores for his side.
In the bowling department, Trent Boult leads the way with his pace and swing, and as India have witnessed a few times this year, when the conditions are helpful, Boult can rip through a batting line up in no time.
Boult has an excellent support cast in Lockie Ferguson, who has genuine pace and can hurry the batsmen on any surface, and Tim Southee, who is an old war-horse with a ton of experience.
Ish Sodi and Mitchell Santner take care of the spin department and although they might not be world class, they have a habit of picking up crucial wickets in the middle overs which benefits their side tremendously.
In the all-rounders' department, there are three big-hitting batsmen who can be quite handy with the bat in Colin Munro, Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham. Two of these three will probably feature in the eleven, and they will be tasked with converting a par score to a formidable one with their ability to clear the boundary at the death.
These all-rounders do find it tough with the bat in seaming or spinning conditions but looking at the pitches on offer so far in England, they will be licking their lips at the prospect of taking guard on such flat decks. All three all-rounders can deliver 5-6 overs with the ball and if they receive some aid from the surface, their gentle seamers can turn into vicious deliveries.
New Zealand look like a well-balanced team and other teams should be wary of them. While New Zealand are by no means the favourites going into the tournament, they can spring a surprise or two because they don't have any pressure on them and also possess the resources to take on the best teams.
They might not be rated too highly by fans and experts the world over, but don't be surprised if you see Williamson lifting the trophy at the Lord's Cricket Ground on July 14th.
Also read - Most maiden overs in world cupPublished 28 May 2019, 01:17 IST