Champions Trophy – Will the Kiwis fly?
Over the years, kiwi, a flightless bird, has been the symbol of the New Zealand men’s cricket team. However, the team, unlike its symbol, has flown quite a few times in world cricket. Even though in tests it remains a mid carder, in the shorter formats it has a decent record in spite of the limited talent it confesses to have. In fact in Champions Trophy it has had a pretty good run having won the tournament in Nairobi in 2000 and then playing in the finals against its traditional Trans-Tasman rivals, the Aussies in 2009 only to end up on the losing side.
Of late however, its limited overs form has been rather sketchy with a morale boosting series win against South Africa on their turf and losing a hard fought series against England at its own backyard. In limited overs though all that matters is the performance on the day and New Zealand can be trusted with at least reaching the semi finals with the side they have:
Brendon McCullum, Grant Elliott, James Franklin, Mitchell McClenaghan, Kyle Mills, Luke Ronchi, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Andrew Ellis, Martin Guptill, Nathan McCullum, Colin Munro, Tim Southee and Daniel Vettori.
As always, the team is a balanced one with a nice blend of experience and youth. The batting looks solid with proven performers like the skipper Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson backed up by Grant Elliott, James Franklin, Colin Munro, and Andrew Ellis who are capable of contributing with the ball as well.
This selection is in keeping with New Zealand’s policy of selecting multifaceted cricketers like Chris Cairns, Chris Harris and Gavin Larsen in the past. Luke Ronchi, as the wicketkeeper-batsman, is an interesting selection and it remains to be seen how he performs in such a big tournament. However, he will have 3 matches against England to prepare for the Champions Trophy.
On the bowling front, New Zealand has an efficient bowling unit comprising Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan and Trent Boult backed up by the spin bowling allrounders Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum. Vettori was sorely missed during the last few series against the Proteas and the Poms and having him in the side will take away a lot of worries for Brendon McCullum. The elder McCullum will also like to keep up his performance, which he has done in a lion hearted manner in the absence of Daniel Vettori.
The non-selection of BJ Watling is a tad surprising as he has been performing well over the last year or so but one assumes that the New Zealand selectors are looking to preserve him for the tests. Similarly it is worth asking why Doug Bracewell and Neil Wagner are not in the team. Both are capable of contributing with the bat and could have added some teeth to the bowling attack with their extra pace and incisive bowling.
It seems that solidity over flair is the flavor of the month and New Zealand has kept that in mind as well! Let’s see what happens at the tournament.