They finished as semi-finalists twice and ended as runners-up in 2009. They earned the title in 2000. Such has been New Zealand‘s history as they enter the forthcoming edition of ICC Champions Trophy in England and Wales. Termed as a ‘ruthless’ competition by many captains, owing to its rapid nature, it will test the ICC World Cup 2015 runners-up who will be up against some quality sides in the preliminary round. The responsibility lies on a 26-year-old Kane Williamson‘s shoulders to regain the trophy after more-than-a-decade.
The main draw will kick off from June 1. Hosts England will take on a much-improved Bangladesh in the inaugural contest. New Zealand are placed in Group A, which comprises of title contenders like Australia, England and a competitive Bangladesh unit. The marquee event does not give much breathing space to any side. All teams will play 3 games in the group stages and hope to win at least 2 to qualify for the knockouts.
Practically speaking, any side can have an off day. But this two-week long tournament gives minimal space for complacency. New Zealand will be on their toes against top sides like Australia and England, and not take their game versus Bangladesh lightly as well.
For an ideal ODI side, one should have players for all occasions. In modern-day 50-over format, a team’s fortunes are known by how they fare in the decisive middle overs. Momentum in the ’15-40 overs’ keeps a side going in the fag end of the innings. It is all about breaking the 100-over contest into small phases, setup different goals and try to achieve them heading into the climax. It demands being wisely calculative and changing game plans if and when required.
Of course, a lot depends on the conditions and pitch as well. The pitch, in most cases, will be batsmen-friendly but the conditions in England will be open for bowlers. This gives enough scope for good contest between bat and ball. New Zealand have players for all situations. Williamson, Ross Taylor, Neil Broom and Martin Guptill will lead the top order and anchor the innings. They will be eager to keep the scoreboard ticking and build a platform for floaters like Colin de Grandhomme, Corey Anderson and James Neesham.
The Kiwis have a deep batting line-up. With the likes of wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner and Tim Southee, they will be hopeful of recovering from a hypothetical position, say 178 for 7 in 38 overs. Talking about their bowling, Southee’s off cutters, wicket-to-wicket lines, Trent Boult’s toe-crunching yorkers, Mitchell McClenaghan (second highest wicket-taker in previous edition) and Adam Milne’s pace adds variety to the pace battery.
In the spin department, in-form Santner and Jeetan Patel will be hopeful of curbing the run-flow in middle overs. However, they may miss the services of a leg spinner. If required, Williamson will also roll his arms and sneak in with some quiet overs.
To top it all, New Zealand were one of the first major sides to move on from the hullabaloo of Indian Premier League (IPL) 10. They are already in the 50-over mode (playing in a tri-series in Ireland) and will have adequate match practice ahead of their first encounter.
In the hindsight, Kiwis’ biggest challenge will be to cope up with their group nemesis. It comprises of favourites like Australia and England. In short, they won’t have a single ‘easy’ game in the competition.
The likes of, Broom, Neesham, , and de Grandhomme will be participating in their maidenICC event. Their temperament and nerves will be under check.
Barring the last World Cup, New Zealand have never been regarded as ‘title contenders’ ahead of any ICC trophy. They have continued to remain stagnant as ‘underdogs’ or ‘dark-horses’ despite featuring in the knockouts from time to time. They will be eager to get rid of their ‘dark-horse’ image and press hard for a better reputation. The camp’s mindset will be under the radar as well.
New Zealand have a balanced squad. Their batting will be led by Williamson, flamboyant opener Guptill and ever-improving Broom. Williamson and Guptill’s form will be vital for their progress. Latham had a tough start to 2017, but made amends in the recently-concluded Tri-Nation series in Ireland. Neesham, de Grandhomme and Anderson will fill in as the all-rounders. Neesham’s form will be a plus point for the Kiwis.
Talking about their bowling, Southee and Boult will spearhead the pace attack. Southee has enough exposure of ICC events, variations up his sleeves and carries a calm head. Boult and Milne will be assisted by the conditions in England. They will be required to hit the deck on a consistent basis. The overcast conditions will be conducive for swing bowling, whereas spinners will come handy as the game progresses.
Santner has been a revelation for his side. His arm balls, slower ones and tight lines will keep a lid on the scoring in middle overs.
Since the tournament’s inception, Black Caps have played 21 games. They have won 12, whereas have been on the losing side 8 times. With a win per cent of 57.14, New Zealand will fancy their chances with defending champions India, Australia, England and South Africa hogging maximum limelight in the run-up to the competition.
New Zealand open their campaign against Trans-Tasman rivals Australia. They will lock horns with Steven Smith’s side on June 2 at Edgbaston. Kiwis will clash with England on June 6 at Sophie Gardens, Cardiff before facing Bangladesh at the same venue on June 9.
“Well, I think good (on Champions Trophy chances). Given that they got a very consistent record, I think it’s a very skilled side and England conditions should help the seam bowlers. Optimistic, but they are also some very good sides. South Africa are due to win one, as well as the usual suspects like defending champions India, England at home and Australia”, former New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming was quoted as saying by NNIS.
“Because the tournament is much shorter and you have the top eight teams in the world, the competitiveness of the tournament is much higher from the word go. You have to be on top of your game from game one. If you are not, your chances go down pretty soon. That’s the biggest challenge in Champions Trophy and something that all the players love playing, for sure,” Virat Kohli said before the Indian team left for England.
New Zealand have failed to enter the semi-finals on both occasions when England hosted the event (2004 and 2013).
Honestly, New Zealand are a balanced side, yet not termed as ‘favourites’. If India and Australia have a knack of performing well in ICC events, England are the most improved side since the 2015 World Cup. Playing in home conditions, Eoin Morgan’s side will be expected to go the distance. South Africa are desperate to win, as stated by skipper AB de Villiers. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are ‘underdogs’, whereas Bangladesh have been promoted to the big stage.
In this scenario, Kiwis are rightly adjudged as the ‘dark-horse’. Nonetheless, with a balanced squad in a blink-and-a-miss competition, Black Caps can hope to turn the tides. After all, they have the ability to remain calm in pressure situations, unlike favourites-yet-eventual-chokers in form of Proteas.
Kane Williamson (c), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Jimmy Neesham, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi (wk), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor
A passionate sports person, Aditya Sahay lives, loves and thinks about cricket all the time.