CWC 2023: New Zealand SWOT – Black Caps look to punch above weight despite injury cloud over Williamson

PTI, Sep 30, 2023, 7:24 PM IST

Credit: X / @BLACKCAPS

For a team which has entered the World Cup knockout stage in the last four editions of the World Cup, New Zealand would want to end their wait to win a trophy this time in India.

In 2019, Kane Williamson’s men came agonisingly close in doing so in the summit clash against England, but only to end on the wrong side of a result, courtesy a strange boundary countback rule.

The outcome still rages on in debates but the Kiwis will have to muster all their strength to have a crack at the coveted trophy, and they would want to do that for their affable leader Williamson.

Strength: The stats may tend to portray New Zealand as a side who struggle in India but in ICC events, the Black Caps are a different beast — often punching above their weight, evidenced by their three ICC tournaments final appearances — two 50-over WC finals in 2015 and 2019 and the WTC summit clash in 2021.

The Kiwis have a largely balanced squad for this World Cup consisting of exciting players like Devon Conway, Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips but also ageing stars like Williamson, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, who form their backbone.

New Zealand’s bowling, especially the spin department, seems to have covered the bases with Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi in their ranks while fast bowlers Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry will be there to support Boult and Southee.

Weakness: Overall, New Zealand’s ODI record in India is pretty dismal: only 18 wins to show from 61 matches with 47 losses and two games ending without any result.

Besides, Williamson won’t be available for New Zealand’s tournament-opener in Ahmedabad against England as he continues to battle a knee injury that he suffered during IPL 2023.

How Williamson performs in the tournament could also determine the fortunes for the Kiwis as apart from being their captain, the 32-year-old is also their best batter irrespective of conditions.

Opportunity: For the troika consisting Williamson, Boult and Southee, this World Cup could be the last opportunity to win another ICC trophy for New Zealand. Conway lifted the IPL trophy with Chennai Super Kings earlier this year.

The resolute left-handed batter would be itching to have a go in white-ball cricket in India and build more on the success he has had this year with the bat.

Mitchell has been a vital cog for New Zealand with both the bat and the ball and he would want to play an impactful role in their campaign. Phillips, Will Young and even Rachin Ravindra would look to make their contributions.

Threat: Apart from a dismal ODI record in India, New Zealand have suffered away series defeats against two Asian sides — India and Pakistan — this year.

But to their credit, New Zealand did well to edge Pakistan 2-1 in their first of the two away series in 2023.

Along with Williamson’s injury, New Zealand’s trusted bowling weapons in Southee and Boult, 34 each, will have to prove themselves on wickets that may not suit their art.

If recent form is taken into account, New Zealand are coming off a 1-3 defeat to England in a four-match away ODI series, albeit in different conditions.

The Kiwis got the better of Bangladesh 2-0 in a three-match affair before they reached India for the World Cup, but they need to replicate that effort in a bigger stage.

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