A well-balanced side led by Kane Williamson will chase the elusive world cup, which is in their reach, almost. There is a difference between fiction and Virat Kohli’s captaincy.
Fiction has to make sense.
But that’s beside the point.
The point is, I, who took an Uber Pool to a meeting in South Bombay, got a nod and a wave from Scott Styris. Yes, he was sitting next to the imposing figure of Graeme Smith in a white SUV, when the uber I was in drove past them.
Perhaps, they were discussing how Tom Blundell finds himself in New Zealand’s 2019 World Cup squad or maybe they had dinner plans.
Tim Seifert, the dashing 24-year-old wicket-keeper batsman for New Zealand was in line to be picked as the back-up gloveman, but he broke his thumb on the last day of the domestic season. As a result, Blundell with no prior ODI experience stood out in that squad like a sore thumb.
Kane Williamson (capt), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor
Their top XI features Guptill and Nicolls as openers.
Skipper Williamson, long-serving Taylor, and Latham who is an absolute keeper form the middle-order. Numbers 6,7 and 8 are the essence of New Zealand cricket; who has always produced quality utility cricketers. Neesham, de Grandehomme, and Santner are the allrounders.
Trent Boult, who would into every other world cup squad straightaway, is the leader of this bowling attack.
Will Boult walk right into the Pakistani side considering there are so many left-arm quicks? Or he might just get a game because he bowls left-arm-fast? We will never know.
Boult will have the support of Ferguson who has express pace and has the best handlebar mustache in the game. There will be a battle between Matt Henry, whose stocks are pretty high in England right now vs Tim Southee whose stocks haven’t been high for a while.
Blundell is expected to carry the most amount drinks for the most part of the tournament along with Colin Munro and Ish Sodhi, in that order.
In this world cup, everyone plays everyone. Which is great for television and worse for the smaller teams.
Think about it.
A side like Afghanistan, who are promising, with a flurry of magical twirlymen have hardly ever been in a situation where they have faced all the top sides within a span of 40 days. Same goes for Bangladesh even though they have been in the (small team) bracket forever.
New Zealand on the other hand, are scheduled to play Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan in the first week of the tournament. Sri Lanka’s ODI cricket and archaeologists share something in common. Both of their careers are in ruins.
Then there is Bangladesh, who were white-washed in New Zealand recently.
Afghanistan are expected to put up a fight but unfortunately, over the course of 100 overs, the better team will win.
Which means, if normalcy prevails then the Blackcaps will have three wins in as many games and that is good enough to get them on a roll.
Ideally, if you’re playing India in this world cup, you want to play them in the first or second week of the June because the pitches will turn, stop and do all the other ‘Indian’ things after that. In their fourth game, they will go up against India at Trent Bridge. A flat pitch with significantly shorter boundaries might make the kiwis them feel at home.
After which, they have a gap of five days before they meet South Africa followed West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and the hosts England in their final round-robin fixture.
Taylor Swift came up with her debut album in 2006, the same year that Ross Taylor first played an ODI.
13 years on, Taylor will become the seventh Kiwi cricketer to feature in four world cups.
He is their rock.
His 7272 runs at 51.57 make his the second-highest run-scorer among all middle-order batsmen in the ODIs.
A stint with Middlesex in the one-day cup will give him a better understanding of the conditions too.
Captain and their main man Kane Williamson is not a disciple of Brendon McCullum’s school of captaincy, let alone the batsmanship.
Yet, his icy cool approach while leading and batting makes him a class apart. Runs for Taylor and Williamson will make the campaign much easier for the blackcaps. If you add Tom Latham in that mix, then it becomes one of the most powerful middle-order outfits in this world cup.
Pitches are expected to be flat. But just in case the world cup experiences any two out these three factors (a) murky skies (b) strong cross breeze (c) green pitches then Boult and Southee will inflict the most damage. Sodhi will get more games than as it seems but it depends on how much of trust Williamson puts on him.
But the following stands out for the Kiwis, who, well, let’s be honest, would hope for nothing less than a cup- finally- in their cupboard.
New Zealand have reached the semi-finals on 6 separate occasions and were ‘piped’ in the finals in 2015.
If ever there was a fantasy book written about the cricket’s premier 50-over tournament then Kiwis are winning it.
What about South Africa?
Graeme Smith could have waved back too. But he never did.