Why New Zealand are favourites

January 25, 2015

They beat Pakistan in the five-match series in the UAE in December last year and have done well in the ongoing series against Sri Lanka at home

Why New Zealand are favourites

Generally regarded as also-rans in major events, New Zealand have been considered as one of the favourites to win the cricket World Cup only once in the history. It was when they were the co-hosts with Australia in 1992. They bulldozed every team but lost against Pakistan in two successive matches, which shattered their dream of lifting the trophy.

Twenty-three years later, they are in the same position. They are co-hosting the quadrennial event and have a well-developed, balanced side. And they have been in great form for the last few months. They beat Pakistan in the five-match series in the UAE in December last year and have done well in the ongoing series against Sri Lanka at home.

In 1992, they had a great cricketer at the helm -- Martin Crowe, who was at the zenith of his career. He ended the tournament with 456 runs, which he scored at a staggering average of 114.

This time they have Brendon McCullum at the top -- and he has been scoring aplenty. He can guide his team to victory not only with the bat but also with his shrewd captaincy.

In 1992, they had a decent batting order. Besides Crowe, they had the services of Mark Greatbatch, Andrew Jones and Ken Rutherford.

Their batting this time is even better. Apart from Brendon McCullum, they have Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson and Kane Williamson. This last named man has been in the form of his life. Just have a look at his scores in 2014: 47, 16, 71, 77, 65, 60, 88, 10, 70 not out, 46, 123, and 97. In the second match against Sri Lanka on January 20 this year, he scored another century.

Ross Taylor is a world-class player who can put to sword any bowling attack. Pakistan’s fans might never forget his 131 not out in the previous World Cup, in which he hit bowlers as if they were club-level players.

Martin Guptill has also proved his mettle many a time. Like Ross Taylor, he is a big hitter of the ball and has won many matches for his team.

Their bowling is also much better than it was in the mega event 23 years ago. Then their bowling attack comprised mostly mediocre bowlers: Deepak Patel, Gavin Larsen and Chris Harris. Only Willie Watson and Danny Morrison were slightly above average. And this was why they failed to defend a very strong total of 262 in the semi-final at Eden Park, Auckland.

This time around, they have a much more potent arsenal. They have Tim Southee, Kyle Mills and Mitchell McClenaghan. This last named man has got 62 wickets in just 31 matches. This average of two wickets per match may be the best in the world. Some cricket statistician might help us in this respect.

Kyle Mills is a seasoned bowler, who will prove lethal in home conditions. Tim Southee also has talent and experience to give match-winning performances at the top level.

In the spin bowling department, they have the services of Daniel Vettori, the world’s best left-arm spinner of the world for the last 18 years. He hasn’t played much cricket in recent years due to injuries, but remains as potent as ever. He ripped apart Pakistan’s middle order in the fourth ODI at Shaikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, on December 17, helping New Zealand win by seven runs.

Considering these facts, it would not be an overstatement to say that New Zealand are the favourites to win this World Cup.

Why New Zealand are favourites