Before a major event it is important to have your best team set in stone so in the series leading up to said event you can give them sufficient match practice to gain form and confidence. Yet somehow the New Zealand selectors manage to miss this memo causing us to have the term 'rotation' thrown around as we changed our team for every game providing no continuity and leaving our players surely confused of their position for the upcoming World Cup, I mean it sure as hell confused me. The fact that the selectors had the tenacity to throw around a word such as rotation after the horror of the 2007 rugby World Cup is a very confusing move indeed but to get over this confusion I have decided to put together what I think New Zealand's World Cup XI should be and it goes like this:
1. Brendon McCullum- This may be quite the contentious partnership with many people saying McCullum is best suited down the order to give our innings a strong finish but McCullum clearly lifts his game when he bats up the order and if he can do it test matches then its good enough for me that he can do it in one dayers. I'm sure people will also say he has been rubbish recently but that is because he batted all over the show against Pakistan. In the recently concluded series he batted at 6,7,5 and 2. McCullum has proven in the past that he is a player that needs to clearly know his role and have solidarity in it to perform at his best so lets put some faith in a player and put our best foot forward with a player who can world class.
2.Jesse Ryder- Jesse Ryder is always going to open the batting, for a big man he times the ball impeccably and can hit through the infield or go over it. Can contribute some overs of medium pacers which could be a handful on the subcontinent with it's spongy bounce. Obviously should be coming back into some form with the best innings I have had the pleasure to watch live. Both times he has batted past the twenty over mark he has scored a hundred but unfortunately both times he has done this he has required a runner. The man himself has said that he is feeling the fittest he has in his life so hopefully he can give us some good runs without requiring a runner. Also who doesn't love the old adage that having a left-right combination throws off the bowlers.
3.Martin Guptill- The way New Zealand's top order performs in current times means that this number three spot can effectively be an opening position making Martin Guptill very suitable for it. Guptill is batting as well as I have ever seen him play, hitting sixes but following it up with sensible singles as well as hitting the gaps with ease. His recent stats show he is improving his consistency ten fold. In the recent series against Pakistan he was the leading run scorer with 209 runs at an average of 52 which may not be particularly overwhelming yet he only scored one half century with a high score of 65 showing that he clearly is stringing together some decent scores but just needs to push on to make them the big ones. He has already done this in the warm up match against Ireland scoring a very composed 130 off 134 balls. Strong performances from him at the top could make the difference to a faltering batting line up along with electric moments in the field which are sure to cause a few run outs.
4.Ross Taylor- Surely New Zealand's most talented batsman but in a current trough of form it would seem. Taylor is getting many starts but just not pushing on to score a big hundred with his last one day hundred coming in 2008 against Bangladesh. This is no cause for worry as the saying goes form is temporary but class is permanent and I believe the big stage can bring out the class in the man they call Rosco. He is very used to subcontinental conditions through extensive play in the IPL so there will be no major climate shock for him. The cow corner boundaries are often small enough to be very good for his beloved slog sweep. That is not his most dangerous shot I would say that if we see his cover drive come out then he is in form and will definitely pile on the runs. If he strikes any vein of good form during the tournament then New Zealand's chances will be greatly improved.
5. Scott Styris- The old hand now Styris will be key to producing nudgy runs and then providing impetus at the end of the innings. Was our best batsman at the last World Cup scoring 499 runs at 83 proving he is a man for the big stage. We will rely a lot on his experience especially to be a cool head in a pressure filled situation in the case of a most likely top order collapse. His bowling is not to be underestimated especially on slow low pitches. He will be able to bowl economically and force batsmen into mistakes, will definitely be a key player in surely his last World Cup.
6. James Franklin- Four years is a very long time in sport as proven by James Franklin. In the 2007 World Cup his key role was as a bowler and to provide lower order hitting but now his role is primarily as a batsman. Franklin is proving himself good enough to fill this role once owned by Jacob Oram in which he accumulates runs and then hits big in the last few overs as he did in New Zealand's wretched tour of India. He was probably our one verified success story as he came in played three matches and scored 187 runs without being dismissed including a magnificent 98*. Although I thought he had fallen away with the ball he proved that he is still able to contribute taking three key wickets in the last ODI against Pakistan and could be successful on the subcontinent especially if he finds some swing. I expect good things from Jimmy contributing at key times with both bat and ball.
7. Nathan McCullum- Someone who I used to think far too bits and pieces to be effective in international cricket but he has come a long way to proving me wrong. In the recent series against Pakistan he bowled attacking lines and was very difficult to get away as well as taking many wickets in limited overs domestic cricket but it was with his batting that he really began to shine through. Averaging 66 for the series with his first two international fifties he showed that he can batter an international attack. I was lucky enough to see his Eden Park innings of 65 which he paced very well starting off slowly with a low strike rate before knocking sixes into the crowd and taking New Zealand to a match winning total. His fielding is exemplary as he is excellent at ground fielding as well as catching. Through these performances I believe he has cemented the number seven spot as a finisher as well as second spinner to Vettori.
8. Daniel Vettori- Has to be the everything of the New Zealand attack from holding down an end to being strike bowler much of our hopes rely on Vettori. Luckily for us he is one of the best one day bowlers in the world able to tie down even the best batsmen while taking wickets. The subcontinental pitches will suit his style of bowling sometimes staying low or popping up and with the warm up pitches providing much turn for the spinners Vettori could become a major factor. With his batting I believe he should not bat any higher than eight as I believe his batting is not as effective in one day internationals but can be relied on to bat with batsmen and hit gaps with strange shots that no one else could. Will want to end a testing time as captain with as much dignity as possible.
9. Jacob Oram- Another case of massive role change with Oram (who once considered giving up bowling) now being used as more of a bowler than anything. His back of a length bowling with variable changes of pace will be very effective on the subcontinental pitches as he has proven in the past by taking a hat trick in Sri Lanka. I thought his days of opening the hips and smashing sixes in the arc were over but in the recent series against Pakistan he showed on a few occasions that he still has that skill which gives me hope that he can refind his batting form. If this happens he could become very useful for quick runs and even come in ahead of Vettori.
10. Tim Southee- My hopes for Tim Southee this World Cup are mile high (sorry had to do it). He is beginning to remove the rough edges of his game and is becoming a genuine strike bowler. Had an excellent series against Pakistan being able to keep from being taken to by the batsmen as well as taking quality wickets with good swing bowling in the process taking his first one day five for. Will hopefully be able to find some swing in the humid conditions and if so he will be a genuine threat. His lower order violent swings to leg could take New Zealand to some good totals as his batting has improved in a new found maturity that is taking him to new heights as an international cricketer.
11. Kyle Mills- An excellent if some what under rated bowler. Has been rated in the top ten ODI bowlers constantly over the past few years and will be the experienced leader of the attack. Has been bowling excellent line and length recently showing that his control is far from waning. Will be key at the start of the innings and in the batting powerplay for restricting batsmen. His batting is solid and could be great use for a batsman who needs supporting so is not guaranteed to bat eleven.
Hamish Bennett- Can offer a variation if Southee or Mills gets taken to by the batsmen. Runs in hard every time he bowls and will offer a quicker option to bring in but is unlikely as he can be far more expensive than his bowling companions but is learning all the time at international level and could well prove me wrong.
Kane Williamson- A definite player for the future who I think should be in the starting line up now. Proved he can bat on the subcontinent getting a century in Bangladesh and one in India but the problem is that he bats too slowly for the one day game. If there are batsmen going strongly at the other end then he can be an anchor to build an innings around but as it so often is with New Zealand there is little to no support. Can come in for Oram if the batting is weak and can also contribute with his dubiously actioned off spinners.
I think that this side would be New Zealand's best bet to take them deep into the tournament. Eight players who are able to bowl as well as a batting line up which can comfortably bat all the way to eleven. This team on paper could win New Zealand the World Cup but as always on paper is where New Zealand always looks best and only time will tell if this line up even plays together let alone performs on a level good enough to win the World Cup.