Just under a year remains for the 2020 T20 World Cup to get underway in Australia with the 12 top teams set to battle it out for the grand prize Down Under.
The top international sides have already shifted their focus to the shortest format of the game with the next 12 months set to afford them ample time to get their T20 combinations right.
As we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the major contenders for the 2020 tournament, it is time to cast an eye on New Zealand. Click here to read about the other leading contenders for the tournament.
New Zealand’s penchant for turning up in major ICC tournaments rings true for the 50-over World Cup, but the same cannot be said for their campaigns in the T20 version.
Not once have the Blackcaps managed to progress to the final of the competition in six previous attempts, with two semi-final appearances being their best finishes. Their T20 struggles are reflected in the ICC standings where they are ranked a lowly sixth compared to No2 and No3 in Tests and ODIs respectively.
Since the 2016 T20 World Cup, the Kiwis have won five and lost six bilateral series in the format.
There is plenty of experience at the core of the Blackcaps T20 squad with skipper Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Martin Guptill in tow.
Openers Guptill and Colin Munro have as many as five T20I tons between them, making their partnership one of the most fearsome ones out there.
Their bowling unit is one of the most balanced in the business too, with their bases covered in both the pace and spin departments. Boult, Southee and Lockie Ferguson make a formidable pace attack while Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi forge an excellent spin unit.
Williamson is also one of the better captains in international cricket with the extremely talented right-hander showing he has the chops for T20 cricket as well in recent years.
While there is no dearth of experience in the Blackcaps set-up, there is a lack of real quality coming through from the youth and reserve ranks.
Blair Tickner, Daryl Mitchell and Scott Kuggeleijn are some of the fresh faces that have been inducted into the squad in the past year, but none of them has really impressed so far.
Another worry is the hot and cold form of their openers Munro and Guptill with their inconsistent displays mirroring the form of the team in T20s.
What they need to do in the next 12 months
Giving Tickner, Mitchell and Kuggeleijn a more consistent run of games to prove themselves has to be one of the priorities for New Zealand if they are to challenge in Australia next year.
They will also want Munro and Guptill to rediscover their best form with the two openers being key to the side’s displays.
Gaining consistency in terms of results in the T20 format has to be the side’s top focus going forward, with the right momentum capable of making all the difference going into the World Cup.
While their lack of Test fixtures compared to other top nations is a growing worry, the same cannot be said of their T20 schedule which is a jam-packed one. They recently played five closely fought T20Is at home against England and India will come calling at the start of next year for the same number of matches.
They also have a three-match series scheduled against their Trans-Tasman rivals Australia next year. The two bilateral series against what are some of the top contenders for the World Cup should really help the Blackcaps sharpen their blades for the tournament.
Key man – Mitchell Santner
While there are plenty of heavyweights in the New Zealand squad, it is spin all-rounder Mitchell Santner who could be their trump card in Australia.
The 27-year-old southpaw spent large chunks of the 2018-19 season on the sidelines due to a knee injury, but the Kiwis will be delighted to have him fit and firing once again.
The left-armed orthodox spinner is a wily customer with the ball with his T20I average and economy standing at 20.71 and 7.10 respectively. With the bat, Santner is more than capable of landing some lusty blows down the order with his presence elongating New Zealand’s batting unit.
Chennai Super Kings have opted to retain him for next year’s IPL despite him missing the 2018 edition. His participation in the star-studded tournament should help him prepare well for the T20 World Cup.
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