Struggling Kiwis would be keen to prove critics wrong
Mumbai: Known to punch above their weight in major events but desperately struggling for form right now, New Zealand would need a lot more than their much-admired fighting spirit in the World Cup after disastrous results in their recent one-day outings.
Daniel Vettori`s men were thrashed by Bangladesh and India in the 50-over contests when they recently visited the sub-continent and also lost to Pakistan 2-3 in their last outing in the run-up to cricket`s showpiece starting February 19.
Former New Zealand captain Glenn Turner recently ruled out his country as a serious contender for the title and Vettori and co. would be eager to prove the former opener wrong.
The Kiwis would be anxious to turn the corner and cannot choose a better platform than the World Cup to do so.
Placed in Group A as fifth seeds with holders Australia, unpredictable Pakistan, confident Sri Lanka and underdogs Zimbabwe - apart from Canada and Kenya - the Kiwis have their task cut out to achieve their initial target - of reaching the quarterfinals.
The strength of the Kiwis is they can bat deep but the key would be how well the top-order, led by the hard-hitting Brendon McCullum and supported by the talented Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor, fire unitedly.
There are some very capable batsmen down the order in the tall Jacob Oram, James Franklin and Scott Styris with skipper Vettori too capable of producing some top drawer stuff with the bat, in addition to his superb left arm spin bowling and excellent fielding.
The pace bowlers, in particular Kyle Mills, need to bowl smartly on the slow sub-continental pitches or else they would be cannon fodder to the free-stroking opposing batsmen.
Vettori would relish bowling on spin-friendly pitches and has Nathan McCullum and part-timer Kane Williamson as his slow bowling partners in a bid to choke up runs in the middle
New Zealand have reached the semi finals of the tournament on five occasions (1975, `79, `92, `99 and 2007), so they have the pedigree to go far in the event.
The appointment of John Wright as the team`s coach is bound to be beneficial because of his vast knowledge of the sub-continental conditions during his successful stint as the coach of the Indian team that made the final of the 2003 Cup in South Africa.
New Zealand`s World Cup 15: Daniel Vettori (capt.), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram,
Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and Luke Woodcock.
New Zealand`s preliminary group matches: v Kenya (Feb 20, Chennai); v Australia (Feb 25, Nagpur); v Zimbabwe (Mar 4, Ahmedabad); v Pakistan (Mar 8, Kandy); v Canada (Mar 13, Mumbai); v Sri Lanka (Mar 19, Mumbai).