Another World T20 preview? Another World T20 preview. This time Emma embarks on trying to quantify the start of post-McCullum New Zealand.
New Zealand have dominated their last two T20 series (beating Pakistan 2-1 and Sri Lanka 2-0), but it will be a different kettle of fish when they head to the sub-continent for the World T20. It’s been four years since the BLACKCAPS played a series in India, so it’s hard to know how they’ll manage in those conditions.
At the last World T20, New Zealand had a poor showing, meaning they didn’t make it past the group stage. After the success the team had in the Cricket World Cup last year, expectation will be high and they will be hoping to make it to their first final (especially considering they haven’t made it to the World T20 semi-finals since 2007).
There will be plenty of interest in how New Zealand manage without Brendon McCullum at the helm. The dynamic of the team will certainly be different without his runs and his centuries (both of which he has scored more of than anyone else in this format). How Kane Williamson deals with the pressure of captaincy and opening the batting will be important – but if anyone in the team can juggle both, he can. He will need the support of older players like Grant Elliott, Nathan McCullum, and Ross Taylor as they embark on the ‘post-McCullum’ era.
New Zealand are well known for their athletic fielding, and in this short form, every run they can save in the field could be crucial. It seems as if everyone in the team has taken a screamer of a catch at some stage, so if they can continue this entertaining trend it will be a great advantage for them.
Tim Southee and Trent Boult have been a bit out of touch in recent Test series, so hopefully the switch to T20 will spark them back into form. Southee hasn’t played a T20 since June last year, and that was the only T20i he played in the entirety of 2015, but he has a large amount of experience to call on so this may not be too big an issue.
It is reasonably safe to assume that Adam Milne and Mitchell McClenaghan will bowl aggressively, which will give them a good chance of taking wickets – but this approach needs to be successful otherwise they could end up going for a significant number of runs for little reward.
McClenaghan has played one domestic T20 match since fracturing his eye in a nasty incident involving a short ball and a slightly too large gap between helmet and grill. Matt Henry was a little unlucky to miss out on selection for the tournament, so McClenaghan (who has only picked up two wickets in four T20is this year) needs to prove that he deserves his place.
New Zealand’s two young spin bowlers, Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner, have each played only five T20 matches for their country. Those matches haven’t included any stand out performances, but they are both talented and have the chance to make the most of more spin-friendly conditions if they can hold their nerve in their first big tournament. Also included in the squad is the ever dependable Nathan McCullum – he certainly is experienced, however hasn’t been involved in an international series for over six months.
While Kane Williamson holds down one end as opening batsman, it will be important for Martin Guptill to be at his explosive best so he can put the opposition under pressure, as well as make the situation easier for his captain.
Corey Anderson will be vital for quick runs in the middle order – other players are capable of accelerating the run rate too, but he has the ability to take the game away from the opposing team if he connects with a few.
Ross Taylor suffered a side tear in January and after his first game since the injury (a domestic T20 match) he indicated that his side tear was still causing him some discomfort – however his 26* off 16 balls is a promising sign of recovery.
Luke Ronchi has been dismissed for single figures in his last four innings, and hasn’t managed double figures since August last year. This should cause some concern as his role as an experienced middle order player means he needs to finish off the innings with a bang, or hold it together if wickets are falling quickly. If he doesn’t find form then the only other wicket-keeping option is Henry Nicholls, who hasn’t kept at international level before.
Nicholls is a very new addition to the team – in fact, he hasn’t even played an international T20 match yet. This could be considered a brave move by the selectors, but Nicholls has shown the ability to deal with pressure situations in other formats, so can hopefully carry this into the World Cup as well.