The Narendra Modi Stadium where the blackcaps will play their opening encounter against England. Pic credits to PTI.
Do you know what happens when you boil milk? The cream rises to the top. I like this format for world cups where every team plays the other as weather permitting the very best make it to the semifinals. By Rahul Patil. Twitter - @rahulpatilnz
So, will this be the year that the blackcaps finally win their first white ball world title? I am old enough to remember the Champions Trophy win in 2000-01 and although it was a world title it’s not quite the same as a world cup. The boundary count back rule in 2019 still hurts but the fact remains that the record books have us down as the ‘best man’ once again.
The good news is that Kane Williamson is back, and he’s been named the captain of the side. It means that the selectors, the team management, and Kane himself are confident of his fitness. He’s looked in good nick in the couple of warm up matches. In white ball cricket the ODI format is tailor made for Kane and one gets the feeling that his performance will be directly proportional to that of the blackcaps.
Devon Conway’s exploits with the bat in the last IPL have set him up nicely to have a big world cup. Conway is both solid and aggressive at the top of the order. He’s got a mature head on his experienced shoulders and likes scoring big runs when he gets in.
I was surprised at the exclusion of Finn Allen and the selection of Will Young. They are two very different cricketers. It’s almost like buying tickets to a Queen concert and Enrique Iglesias turning up on stage. The problem with Finn Allen though is that the aggressive flavors of his spicy Biryani have not yet found a good cooling Raita to go with it. The flying starts he provides are great, but ODI cricket still demands consistency and better shot selection.
Our middle order gives me a lot of comfort. The likes of Daryl Mitchell and Tom Latham are tried and tested to deliver when it matters. Glenn Phillips at number six is a mouth-watering prospect. The four foreign players per team rule in the IPL meant that Phillips spent a lot of time warming the benches for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, but I have a gut feeling that he’s going to have a terrific world cup with the bat and in the field.
Apart from Mitch Santner I don’t expect any of the other all rounders to consistently feature in the playing XI. Mark Chapman and Rachin Ravindra are able replacements if required whereas veteran Jimmy Neesham gets another chance to finally get rid of the nightmares of the 2019 final.
It’s good to see Trent Boult back in black. He looks fresh and on current form he is the best in the world at picking up wickets with the new ball. If Tim Southee gets fit in time, he should be an automatic choice in the playing XI along with Lockie Ferguson and Ish Sodhi.
Barring fitness issues the ideal playing XI for the blackcaps might look as follows:
> Will Young
> Devon Conway
> Kane Williamson
> Daryl Mitchell
> Tom Latham
> Glenn Phillips
> Mitch Santner
> Ish Sodhi
> Tim Southee
> Lockie Ferguson
> Trent Boult
This combination gives us batting depth till number eight and five genuine bowlers along with Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips to cover for anyone having a bad day. Our batting is stronger than our bowling and considering dew might play a huge role in the tournament chasing totals might be a strategy used by many teams.
The blackcaps have a got a decent draw as well. They will enjoy playing seven of their nine games in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Dharamsala, Pune & Bengaluru. The two games in slow and low Chennai against Bangladesh & Afghanistan could be tricky and the blackcaps will need to be on their guard to make sure they don’t drop any points in those games.
The tournament opener is a blockbuster encounter i.e., a repeat of the final of the 2019 edition. It’s being played at the biggest stadium in the world with a capacity of 132000. Although tickets are still available no less than 120000 fans are expected to be present for the game and the atmosphere will be electric.
I have been in India (Mumbai, Lonavala, Solapur & Goa) for the last two weeks and the cricket world cup seems to be the only topic being discussed wherever I go. I often get asked for my semifinal picks. I am predicting India, Australia, England, and the Blackcaps to make it to the semis. I go to sleep every night dreaming of an India vs New Zealand final with one team winning by the “barest of margins”. Could this be the year?