With a whopping six semi-final exits to show for 11 World Cup campaigns, fans will hope New Zealand can get this proverbial monkey off the back by reaching a final – and winning. They’ve graduated to the final two once before, in 2015, but lost to trans-Tasman neighbours Australia.
Former coach and chief tactician Mike Hesson’s tenure has ended and they no longer boast the services of batsman Brendon McCullum and all-rounder Daniel Vettori, but the next generation is gradually starting to gel. Captain Kane Williamson and former skipper Ross Taylor are a formidable batting pairing, while seamers Trent Boult and Tim Southee will be among the finest exponents of swing and seam in United Kingdom conditions.
The Black Caps are quintessential cricket scrappers, prepared to augment talent with mental fortitude – and override mind games with the opposition. They typify the adage, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ – and therein lies a hefty advantage among other teams arguably over-reliant on one or two star players.
Batsman to bank on
One of a few cricketers to boast a double-century in ODI cricket and the holder of two other 180-plus scores, opening batsman Martin Guptill is primed for another fine World Cup campaign. That 237 not out struck against the West Indies in Wellington during the 2015 World Cup was magnificent – and could comfortably be repeated or bettered in English conditions prepared for big individual and team totals.
Bowler to bet on
Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi was an outside pick for the final 15-man squad, but Williamson insisted. The captain was obliged – and can look forward to deploying the tall slow bowler on pitches that will require the pace to be taken off the ball. Sodhi’s international career originated in Test cricket, but has evolved to limited-overs influence.
As much as other teams need to avoid losing to underdogs, New Zealand must successfully navigate potential slip-ups against dark horses like Sri Lanka. The Kiwis are fourth in the International Cricket Council’s ODI rankings and Sri Lanka ninth, but a gap of five positions will hardly be evident come 1 June’s showdown in Cardiff.
Kiwi fans will insist the team reach and win the final, but neutrals will be hard pressed to support anything more than another semi-final exit. New Zealand, indeed, are excellent in remaining in contention for bigger and better – but equally prone to failing at the final hurdles.