World Cup worries for Black Caps highlighted by India’s ODI series sweep

ANALYSIS: Poor returns from a number of frontline batters destined the Black Caps to a 3-0 series defeat in India.

With injuries severely affecting their bowling depth, New Zealand could have ill-afforded four batters who seem certain to feature at the World Cup this year to all fail to make any substantial contributions.

But Finn Allen, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips all had disappointing returns, while India’s openers routinely flourished. Nine months out from the World Cup – to be played in India – there’s clearly work needed to be done with a New Zealand side which agonizingly lost the 2019 final.

Here’s a look at the key issues for the Black Caps’ one-day unit:

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The absences

Sending ODI skipper Kane Williamson and test captain Tim Southee home after the tour of Pakistan made eminent sense, if not a pleasing effect on the result of the series.

The duo have tons of white-ball experience in India and the two-test series at home versus England next month is the big drawcard on the Black Caps’ summer calendar.

But not having Trent Boult (unavailable), Matt Henry, Ish Sodhi and Adam Milne (injured) and Kyle Jamieson (recovering from injury) in the fast bowling line-up meant a gaping drop in talent and experience.

Williamson led the way with the bat in Pakistan and is the glue to the batting top order – without him in India they crumbled.

New Zealand ODI captain Kane Williamson was badly missed in India.

Fareed Khan/AP

New Zealand ODI captain Kane Williamson was badly missed in India.

Problem spots

As touched on above, depth – or more precisely, the lack of it. The hosts coped comfortably without a string of top-flight bowling options – and Shubman Gill made 360 ​​runs at an average of 180 and a strike-rate of 128.57 to put pressure on usual opener KL Rahul.

But New Zealand don’t have many players knocking down the door to replace an incumbent. Without the aforementioned seam and swing bowling sextet, Blair Tickner, Henry Shipley and Jacob Duffy were given an opportunity to impress – admittedly in unfavorable conditions for the most part, especially when losing the toss in game two in Raipur.

But they failed to make any noticeable impact, and neither did Henry Nicholls with the bat, after falling behind Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips in the pecking order.

Opener Finn Allen made two ducks and has yet to show he’s ready for the World Cup in a critical position.

Blair Tickner watches Shubman Gill celebrate his century during the third one-day international in Indore.

Rajanish Kakade/AP

Blair Tickner watches Shubman Gill celebrate his century during the third one-day international in Indore.

Strengths

While a spin bowling triumvirate of Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Michael Bracewell won’t be the best slow-bowling unit at this year’s World Cup, it’ll still ensure New Zealand are highly competitive if other areas of their game click.

Add Southee, Boult and Lockie Ferguson and bowling shouldn’t be a major headache if injuries and unavailability are avoided.

Williamson and Devon Conway give the batting solidity and substance, Phillips adds dynamism and Mitchell should be too good to slump in form for much longer.

There’s also a ‘been there, done that’ consistency about a team which has consistently made the playoffs of major ICC events for a number of years; on the basis of one standout display and avoiding any shock defeats.

India were able to comfortably sweep New Zealand without being near full-strength.

Rajanish Kakade/AP

India were able to comfortably sweep New Zealand without being near full-strength.

Their opposition

India were already favorites to win the World Cup on home soil before they routed Sri Lanka and New Zealand in quick succession.

Their depth is unparalleled – any headaches their selectors have come Cup squad naming time will only be over omissions.

The Black Caps slipped from first to fourth on the ODI rankings with the three defeats; now also sitting behind England (2) and Australia (3).

England showed their white-ball prowess with the victory at the Twenty20 World Cup last year and are the only side to come close to India with their depth of legitimate 1st XI options.

The build-up

There are just eight ODIs to go before coach Gary Stead and selector Gavin Larsen have to finalize their 15-man selection for the World Cup.

The first three of those are at home against Sri Lanka at the end of March. While that will be a handy exercise, playing at home against a lesser light is unlikely to put the blowtorch on many players.

New Zealand will then play five games in Pakistan in April and May – with the venue better equipped to test how they might fare come October in India.

The Black Caps will warm up for the tournament with four ODIs – following four T20s – in England versus the hosts in September.

* The Black Caps complete their India tour with three Twenty20 internationals, the first of which starts at 3am on Saturday (NZT)

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