Thursday, August 16, 2012

Experience the key in New Zealand World Twenty20 squad

New Zealand picked a squad for the World Twenty20 filled with reliable performers. Young quick Adam Milne is the only surprise in the squad. The Kiwis will be hoping that their big guns fire in order to have a successful tournament in Sri Lanka.

The top order:
The Black Caps have ostensibly the greatest variety in openers. Any two from Martin Guptill, Rob Nicol, Brendon McCullum or BJ Watling could open the batting for the team. In fact when situations have demanded it, even James Franklin has opened the batting for both, the national side and the Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

Guptill has made one spot his own, after being New Zealand's best performer with the bat across all formats of the game. His opening parter is probably going to be Nicol, considering their average opening partnership in t20 internationals is a very respectable 38.

Despite having two prolific hitters at the top, New Zealand's two biggest game-changers in t20's bat at 3 and 4. McCullum and captain Ross Taylor will be expected to take the attack to the opposition bowlers, and if they succeed, New Zealand could potentially bat opponents out of the game.

The middle order:
Kane Williamson's role will be to keep the scoreboard ticking over, and take advantage of any loose deliveries. Williamson is the bridge between the aggressive top order and the big-hitting lower middle order.

James Franklin and Jacob Oram are both match-winners in their own right. Franklin is an expert at finding gaps and going big, while Oram has the ability to change the complexion of a match with a single over of big-hitting. The two southpaws are especially effective in tricky chases, however both also have a history of suffering injuries. While BJ Watling would be a suitable replacement in the middle order, it could limit the chances of the Kiwis accelerating in the slog overs.

The all-rounders:
Since the 1992 World Cup, New Zealand is the one team that has personified all-rounders in limited overs cricket. Their squad for the 2012 Twenty20 is no different.

The aforementioned Franklin and Oram are decent all-rounders in their own right. However, Oram has drastically cut down his bowling, while Franklin can sometimes be easy for opposing batsmen to go after.

The Black Caps are also lucky to have two excellent spinning all-rounders in Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum. It might be difficult for Vettori to execute his primarily leg-side mode of attack against international bowling attacks, but McCullum has already played some vital cameos in t20 internationals to see New Zealand through in close finishes.

The bowling attack:
On the low and slow wickets of Sri Lanka, New Zealand's most important bowler is going to be Daniel Vettori. Vettori has been one of the most economical bowlers in the t20 format, and can even open the bowling if required to. Vettori however, has suffered a blip in form across all formats this year, and the Kiwis will have to hope the other bowlers pick up the slack.

Young twenty-year old fast bowler Adam Milne is an exciting pick. Whether he is ready to bowl in Sri Lankan conditions against some of the best attacking batsmen in world cricket is debatable. Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell are the safe picks, as they both have twenty20 experience in these conditions. Furthermore, both Bracewell and Southee are capable of adding some bonus runs for the team lower down the order.

Like most teams, New Zealand will probably also pick a second spinner in the side. Between the talented Ronnie Hira and Nathan McCullum, the experience and calmness of McCullum gives him the edge to take the last spot in the bowling attack.

Final Verdict:
No team does steady and reliable as well as New Zealand. For a country with a small population, the Black Caps just can't afford to do fancy selections, and trusting experience and team unity has paid dividends for them in previous international tournaments.

New Zealand have yet to replicate their surprising ability to reach the final four of the one-day world cup in the t20 format, only reaching the semis in the inaugural edition in 2007. The challenge this time will be to qualify for the Super Eights in the first place. In a group featuring Pakistan and Bangladesh, they could arguably be considered third favourites to progress given the playing conditions.

Nonetheless, the Kiwis team spirit and hard work can never be underestimated, as their history in catching fancied opponents unaware in international tournaments would suggest. If Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Taylor and one of the all-rounders fire, New Zealand could have a genuine chance of causing some big upsets. That being said, even if they do manage to get out of the first group phase, progression from the Super Eights would be a major surprise.