Huh? What is this weird sensation? This bubbling, enthusiastic anticipation?
Can this be what it’s like to be, er, “confident” ahead of a Cricket World Cup? For Kiwi cricket fans, this is a new and rather unnerving thing. Is this how it feels to be – oh dear – an Australian?
Tonight against Sri Lanka we start the tournament with a side that’s regarded on these shores as the most well-rounded we’ve ever had.
Over the years you will have become familiar with the typical New Zealand cricket team: a make-do selection of odd-job men propping up one or two world-class performers. The hard-working guys you’ve seen in black-and-white photos shaking Martin Crowe’s hand or patting Sir Richard Hadlee on the shoulder. But today’s mob is different.
There is balance in this batting line-up, from the fire of the captain, Brendon McCullum, to the ice cool of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson – the later recently anointed by Crowe as “probably our greatest ever batsman”. We’ve got enough batting depth and talent for the selectors to have the luxury of washing their hands of the troubled Jesse Ryder.
Further down, Corey Anderson – he of the 36-ball century – and Luke Ronchi bring late-innings punch. But the surprise in the Kiwi hand is probably the bowling. Tim Southee is the bankable starter and on the smaller fields he will be partnered by wise old head Kyle Mills. The men the selectors will be itching to use are Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne – both genuine quicks. Left-arm McClenaghan can be expensive, but was the second-fastest in world cricket to reach 50 one-day international wickets, getting there in just 23 matches, while Milne regularly hits 150kph.
There are weaknesses. Smart opponents will put a spin bowler up early against openers McCullum and Martin Guptill and our own spinners, as ever, don’t really spin the ball. The veteran Daniel Vettori has become such a creaking liability as a fielder that McCullum might be forced to make smart use of the substitute fielder rules.
Nonetheless, a good run to the semi-finals would mean we play every game on Kiwi shores – with the final over in Melbourne. The bookies have us as third favourites, behind Australia and South Africa. For the fans, anything less than the last four will be seen as a bit of a flop.Reuse content