Finn Allen of the Black Caps. Photo / Photosport
Black Caps great Chris Cairns is calling for some bold changes to the Black Caps’ batting line-up at the World Cup later this year following the recent ODI series defeat in India.
Gary Stead’s side
slipped from number one in the world to fourth in the ODI rankings following the 3-0 series loss.
Cairns is suggesting the return of veteran Martin Guptill to the opening batting role to play alongside Finn Allen at the top of the order.
That would mean moving Devon Conway from the opening spot, despite the left-hander thriving in the role. Conway scored 138 from 100 balls in the third ODI defeat in India, reaching his third ODI ton in just 17 innings – his second century as an opener.
But despite Conway hitting the second-highest ODI innings in India by a New Zealander, Cairns told Newstalk ZB’s D’Arcy Waldegrave on Sportstalk, that he would be better suited down the order, calling for a more aggressive opening pairing at a tournament.
“I’d put him at first drop, I would go hell for leather, at the top. So I would have Guptill and Allen,” Cairns told Sportstalk.
“Conway is a special player. But I think for the dynamic of the team, I think Conway has the ability that if you do lose an early wicket, he can go in there and he can still force the play. Conversely, if you get off to a good start with some power players, then he can come in and perform a more surgical role and then you look at [Kane] Williamson who is arguably the best player of spin in the world, in that same role, and then Tom Latham again, who’s an accumulator.
“So even though he’s had the success, Conway, I would still, because of the conditions that are over there for the World Cup, have two thumpers going right at the top. That’s how I would play it in India.”
Guptill was released from his central contract with New Zealand Cricket last November following 14 seasons with the Black Caps and has been playing for the Melbourne Renegades in Australia’s Big Bash League. He is averaging 16.4 in 10 innings at a strike rate of 108.
He is New Zealand’s third-highest run-scorer in the ODI format and has 18 centuries, including two last year against Ireland and the Netherlands.
Allen, who has four fifties since his debut last July, struggled across the six ODIs in Pakistan and India, averaging just 15.8 including consecutive ducks in the final two matches. But he should benefit from a run of upcoming matches at home.
Cairns also suggested another option at the top.
“I would look at it [Daryl] Mitchell not as a middle-order player but as a like-for-like with Guptill and Allen perhaps,” he added.
The Black Caps play a Twenty20 series in India starting Saturday before they finally start their home summer season with visits by England and Sri Lanka.
India amassed 349 in the opening ODI against the Black Caps, followed by 385 in the third ODI victory – a sign of what teams will be aiming for at the World Cup in October-November.
“It’s probably a really good amount of time between the series being played now in India and the World Cup happening and just seeing what’s going to be required,” Cairns said.
“There is going to be a heck of a lot of runs and then you’re going to have to craft a team together that is either going to be able to dismiss batters, because the whole containment thing in India just doesn’t work. So you need people who have the ability to take wickets and with a batting order, I think that needs to be dynamic at the top. Then you need to have that sort of 3, 4, 5 as the workhorse to get you through the chunk of those middle sort of almost boring overs. And you’ve got to have the firepower at the backend.”
Along with Guptill, Cairns also backed Stead to select fellow veteran Trent Boult for the World Cup. The left-arm opening bowler was also released from his central contract late last year.
“You’d think Trent Boult would come back for the World Cup. You don’t blame him whatsoever with regards to his decision to be an independent contractor, to go and play where he needs to play and to be available for New Zealand when the opportunity is there. And that means World Cups and of course, you pick him. He just made the 50-over ICC team of the year,” Cairns said.
“He’s a world-class performer and proven. For me the four front-line bowlers are [Ish] Sodhi, [Tim] Southee, [Lockie] Ferguson and Boult – they’re all capable of taking wickets and that’s what you’re going to need. And then [Michael] Bracewell plays your fifth and then [Glenn] Phillips.
“You’re going to need that extra bowling option and that’s where Daryl Mitchell also comes in.”
“For me, [Jacob] Duffy just didn’t look quite up to it.
“He’s only beginning but I’m not quite sure pace-wise. I would stick with the perhaps the tried and true but at some stage, New Zealand is going to have to invest in the future.”