The current New Zealand side is a little in Kane Williamson’s image: a little less gung-ho and a touch more considered than the Brendon McCullum model © Getty Images
Fifty-over cricket has delivered New Zealand only one global trophy – the 2000 edition of this tournament, when it was called the ICC Knockout Trophy – and almost gave them the greatest success in their history in 2015. Riding on a surge of home support and home advantage, they reached the World Cup final that year, unbeaten, only to be overpowered (and overawed) at the MCG.
In some ways, the team has been regenerated since then. The talismanic Brendon McCullum, the wily Daniel Vettori and the heroic Grant Elliott have retired. However, within this squad, there is an element of trying to rekindling that 2015 spirit: Corey Anderson, Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne have been recalled after lengthy periods on the sidelines, while in Mitchell Santner they also have someone doing a very fine impression of Vettori.
This is, though, a side in Kane Williamson’s image; a little less gung-ho and a touch more considered than the McCullum model, much like his batting. Since taking over full-time, Williamson has had two series against Australia and one apiece against India, Bangladesh and South Africa. The toughest of those – India away, Australia away and South Africa at home – have been lost, and while there is no disgrace in any of that, there is a sense that this New Zealand team is a notch below the side of 2015.
There is also a lingering concern about burnout among some key figures, notably the captain and coach. With a smaller pool of resources to call on than some nations, Williamson – who did not travel to Ireland but was still active at the IPL – and Mike Hesson are involved in virtually every aspect of New Zealand’s cricket, and it’s been almost non-stop cricket for them since August 2016. After this tournament, they do have a significant break until October, thereby giving them a chance to take stock at the mid-point cycle to another World Cup.
Champions Trophy history
1998 – Quarter-final
2000 – Winners
2002 – Group stage
2004 – Group stage
2006 – Semi-final
2009 – Runner’s up
2013 – Group stage
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Half the members of the Champions Trophy squad have been warming up with a tri-series in Ireland, while key figures completed their IPL campaigns. It all went swimmingly until the final match when they slipped up against Bangladesh, but it could yet prove a useful exercise for New Zealand’s fringe players – should they be needed as reinforcements. In their previous home season, New Zealand lost 2-3 against South Africa, having cleaned up Bangladesh and Australia, although they lost the away Chappell-Hadlee series.
As has been touched upon, a core of senior players remain from the 2015 side – each of them in their prime and looking to make it to the World Cup in 2019. There is the big three in the top four – Martin Guptill, Williamson and Ross Taylor – while Trent Boult and Tim Southee are impressive white-ball bowlers. They are all among the finest one-day cricketers in the world. Guptill’s unbeaten 180 off 138 balls against South Africa earlier this year was a stunning innings, Taylor had a resurgent home season with two match-winning hundreds in his last eight matches, and Williamson is rightly bracketed alongside Virat Kohli, Steven Smith and Joe Root as this generation’s outstanding batsmen across formats.
Mitchell Santner, who has shown shades of Daniel Vettori, has the best economy rate among all bowlers who are set to appear in the Champions Trophy © AFP
New Zealand have got themselves into a bit of pickle over the wicketkeeping situation, and it has had a knock-on effect. They are keen to balance their side by having the gloveman open the innings. It led them to giving Tom Latham a chance behind the wicket during the home season, but that – whether as a result or a coincidence – saw Latham’s runs dry up so much that he was briefly dropped. They have now gone back to Luke Ronchi, and signs suggest that he will open the batting – having had that role in the tri-series. There remains huge faith in Latham, who captained the side in Ireland and also churned out the runs. That could make it difficult to fit Ronchi into the full-strength XI – he has not scored an ODI half-century since January 2015, when he made 170 not out against Sri Lanka. However, his runs in Ireland came at a strike-rate of 113.48, and he could be used with the licence to cut loose.
- Since the beginning of the 2015 World Cup, Martin Guptill is the second highest run-scorer in ODIs with 2222, just behind David Warner (2244).
- Kane Williamson has the highest average (45.90) of any New Zealand batsman to have played 50 ODIs. If the qualification is trimmed to 40 matches, Glenn Turner (47.00) sneaks ahead.
- Of players to have bowled 100 ODI overs since the start of 2016, Mitchell Santner has the lowest economy rate (4.59) of anyone who will appear in the Champions Trophy.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo