Continuing this special series where we look at the factors that can propel each of the 10 participating nations in the upcoming ICC 2019 World Cup to the title, today we focus on New Zealand. The perpetual underdogs of international cricket, they reached the Finals of the last World Cup, which they co-hosted, and produced one of the most memorable campaigns in the history of the event.
With no Brendon McCullum in the side, they are missing the ultra-aggressive and dynamic captaincy which the former skipper provided. But they still have some of the best players in the world and the inclination to punch above the weight, as they have done repeatedly over the years in ICC tournaments.
So, let's look at 5 reasons why New Zealand may well be the side that walks away with the trophy at the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Presence of two great batsmen
New Zealand have never been regarded as a side with a heavyweight batting line-up. But at different times, they have had some high-quality players. The present team misses Brendon McCullum but it includes two all-time great New Zealanders in Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson. Taylor has been one of the greatest batsmen of his generation and can be absolutely devastating in the final overs. Williamson is a steadier and more classical style batter but he too has shown the ability to score quickly through the middle overs without taking much risk. These two, together, form the spine of the Kiwi batting. Their class and skills, if allowed to bloom, would produce great results.
Other capable batsmen in the team
While Taylor and Williamson are the best batsmen in Black Caps unit, some other talented names are present in it also. Martin Guptill's prowess is well-known. He struck a double hundred in the quarterfinal of the last World Cup against West Indies and has been a heavy scorer. Two other players deserve attention – Henry Nicholls and Tom Latham. The latter has been understated due to his style of batting but has been one of the most consisten performers at this level. He is a good player of spin as well and that may help him in matches against teams that have good tweakers in theri ranks. Nicholls has grown into a very dependable run-scorer in the last couple of years. These two could well be the surprise package in this event and make the difference for the Black Caps.
Deadly duo of Tim and Trent
One of the reasons why New Zealand have proven to be so good in cricket, especially Test cricket over the last few years is because of their new ball duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Few bowlers come close to being as skilled in the art of swing bowling as these two. While Southee might be the senior amongst the two, Boult's performance in all formats has been marginally better. In the last edition of the World Cup, these two played key roles in taking New Zealand to the Finals. If the conditions in England turn out to be even slightly swing friendly, watch out for these two. Attacking from different angles and getting it to swing both ways, this duo could wreak havoc on their day.
A very capable spinner
He may not be regarded as amongst the likes of Kuldeep Yadav or Adil Rashid, but when it comes to quality, Mitchell Santner is among the best spinners in the world. Like most left-arm tweakers, he doesn't have any fancy variations like the 'doosra' or 'googly' but what he does have is impeccable control over line and length and subtle variations of pace and flight that keep the batsmen confused. In a way, he is the rightful heir of Daniel Vettori. It were these qualities that made the latter so successful and are now helping his successor. While he may not run through line-ups, Santner can at least provide 10 good, economical overs and that in itself, is a huge asset.
Value of experience
What's very visible about the New Zealand team is that most players are in their late-20s, regarded by many as the best age for a cricketer. The reason is simple: by this time, cricketers have gained experience and are able to play in a more sensible manner. But they are also still young and therefore, haven't lost that energy and vigour associated with youth. The fact that so many players in the current squad belong to that age group suggests this team would be calm and level-headed. They are unlikely to suffer from inexperience or too much anxiety.