Squad review - New Zealand

New Zealand reached the semi-finals in Australia in 2022, the final in UAE in 2021, and the semi-finals in India in 2016. However, they have not been able to go on and win the title, like they have a glass ceiling keeping them down. 

Squad review - New Zealand
Picture Credits - BLACKCAPS Twitter

New Zealand have been a consistently good team in the last three Men’s T20 World Cups, and really almost always since 1975. They reached the semi-finals in Australia in 2022, the final in UAE in 2021, and the semi-finals in India in 2016. However, they have not been able to go on and win the title, like they have a glass ceiling keeping them down.

They have made only two changes to their squad from the last edition. Rachin Ravindra and Matt Henry are in, while Martin Guptill and Adam Milne miss out. Another player who failed to make the cut was Tim Seifert, who played 15 matches between the two T20 World Cups.

New Zealand have three opening batters in their squad – Devon Conway, Finn Allen and Rachin Ravindra. Conway has been a key member of the team in all formats, and he also kept wickets in the 2022 T20 World Cup. He was instrumental in CSK’s fifth IPL title. However, he did not take part in IPL 2024 due to a thumb injury. 

It makes sense to have Conway as the first-choice opener with one of Allen or Rachin at the other end. The guy who can score quick but also stay in, and allow the other two to be short stay nuts. Allen has featured in 20 T20I innings since the last T20 World Cup.

Rachin has played for Chennai Super Kings as an opener this season, striking at 160.87 but at an average of less than 22.2 in ten innings. His form is all over the place.

Kane Williamson will slot in at number three. We all have questions, but New Zealand certainly value his experience in major tournaments. They could perhaps afford to be a bit more flexible with his entry points, and try to utilise him as an insurance batter – someone who can bail the team out of trouble. On other days, he may not even be required to bat.

Daryl Mitchell’s T20I record since the last World Cup has not been particularly impressive. For CSK though, he has scored 318 runs in 13 innings at a strike rate of 142.6 in this year’s IPL, despite coming in to bat at different positions and entry points. Mitchell’s abilities against spin will be crucial for New Zealand in the middle overs.

After coming in at 7 for 2 (which was soon 15 for 3), ‘allrounder’ Glenn Phillips scored a terrific hundred against Sri Lanka in the 2022 edition of the T20 World Cup. 

Since that tournament, he has scored more than 500 runs for NZ but at a strike rate of under 135. But you’d expect better than that from a dynamic player like him. He is yet to start for Sunrisers Hyderabad this season.

Among batters with at least 200 runs for New Zealand between the two T20 World Cups, Mark Chapman has been the third-quickest while also scoring the most runs. There are other options like James Neesham and Michael Bracewell who add more with the ball, but Chapman has been in better batting form for New Zealand. 

Mitchell Santner is also a pretty useful batter lower down the order, but he has not contributed a lot after the T20 World Cup 2022.

New Zealand have a lot of variety in their pace attack. Trent Boult has been in good form in the IPL. He is at his best with the new ball, but he can bowl in other phases too. Lockie Ferguson will be expected to do the job in the middle and death overs. Matt Henry and Tim Southee are both primarily new ball bowlers, but Southee has improved at the death – since the last T20 World Cup, he has picked up 11 wickets in T20Is at an economy of just 8 between overs 17 to 20.

The squad has two frontline spinners in Ish Sodhi and Santner. Sodhi normally operates through the middle overs, while Santner can also bowl in the powerplay if required.

As far as part-timers are concerned, they have the offspin of Bracewell and Phillips, and the left-arm spin of Rachin. Neesham gives an additional option in the middle and death overs. Mitchell and Chapman have bowled only one over each in T20Is for the Black Caps since the last T20 World Cup.

Right-arm quick Ben Sears is the only travelling reserve in the squad.

A probable XI for New Zealand could be: Conway, Allen, Williamson, Mitchell, Phillips, Neesham, Santner, Southee, Sodhi, Ferguson, Boult.

This team is quite balanced with five batters, two all-rounders and four bowlers. Rachin and Henry can be the backups for Allen and Southee respectively. If they want to go pace-heavy, Sodhi can sit out to accommodate another seamer.

On a spin-friendly surface, Rachin could replace Allen at the top, (I would probably start with him anyway). And I would probably go with Bracewell over Neesham as well. 

New Zealand started the ODI World Cup 2023 by fielding just three frontline bowlers against England – Boult, Henry and Santner. They had Neesham and Santner listed at number 8 and 9 in their lineup. What if they try to experiment similarly in the T20 World Cup? 

That would make the XI: Conway, Rachin, Williamson, Mitchell, Phillips, Chapman, Neesham, Bracewell, Santner, Boult, and a bowler depending upon the conditions.

I like this, but it’s chaotic. They will then need to get eight overs from Neesham, Rachin, Phillips, Bracewell, Mitchell and Chapman. That means their bowling wouldn't be as strong, but batting till nine means that they could consistently look to go for above-par totals. It should allow everyone to smash the ball up early, and they can actually use Williamson for what he is best for. 

They have a variety of all-rounders, which certainly allows them to come up with several combinations. Can this be the year when they finally win their first limited-overs World Cup? I need to say no here. Because if I say they are really good, they will underperform. We need to look down on them to get the best out of them. 

There are parts of their team I like, but as always, they look like a semi-finalist rather than a winner.