New Zealand shocked many by finally breaking their hoodoo of being losing semi-finalists at seemingly every World Cup when in 2015 they won, only to lose the final, and now, this time around, they are ranked even higher, so surely they can go one better and win the whole trophy. Right?
The problem is that New Zealand are the world’s smallest cricketing nation, with a population of just 4.8 million people, and on top of that cricket isn’t even the country’s favourite sport, falling a distant second to rugby. They push themselves to greatness largely because of their rivalry with larger neighbours Australia, but it is really hard to do too well when they don’t have the support of their own countrymen, who would rather watch a rugby match than a cricket match.
New Zealand are ranked 4th, and are ranked ahead of Australia, but Australia are more popular with the bookmakers. As one cricket fan told me, “That’s because they are basing it on Australia’s previous form, not their current form.” The problem is that Australia’s current form is largely due to the absence of David Warner and Steve Smith, and, with them back, their rating is naturally a lot higher, enough to push New Zealand back to 5th.
It’s not just Australia that New Zealand have to worry about either, as West Indies are in some kind of form and could easily beat New Zealand in an ODI if things go their way. Even Afghanistan, with their current rate of improvement, are a chance of beating them, and then we’ve got Bangladesh, who would fancy their chances of beating New Zealand, as Bangladesh did so many times over in Bangladesh.
SIt’s a good enough squad, with a handful of people who are not household names. Kane Williamson is expected to be the star, with Ross Taylor joining him, while Trent Boult and Tim Southee are expected to do the bulk of the bowling duties. The problem is that, as always, they have gaps, players who just don’t seem to be quite up to true international standard. On their day they can fire but they just aren’t consistent. It’s a team with gaps, a team who are overly reliant on a few players.
Indeed, New Zealand always seem to get their selections just right, whether it is for a World Cup or a test series, making the most of their small pool of talent. They hit above their weight, always doing better than anyone expects them to do, and yet never quite as good as some would hope.
Five Fearless Predictions:
(1) They won’t make it to the semi-finals:
They are going to get close and they might get there, but I don’t see it happening. 6 wins out of 9 with just 3 losses is just too much to ask of them, and I think they’ll more likely finish 5th or 6th, or maybe even 7th.
(2) They are going to be upset at least once:
Whether they lose to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan or West Indies, one of them is going to trip them up, if not two or even three. While New Zealand should beat all of those sides usually, it just takes one moment and the match is gone. The reliance on so few players means that they could lose to any of them.
(3) They aren’t going to beat any of the top sides:
The four favourites, namely England, India, South Africa and Australia, are all going to beat New Zealand, thus meaning that they can’t make the semi-finals. While it is possible that New Zealand could win one of those matches, I just don’t see it happening.
(4) They are going to disappoint:
People in New Zealand, and fans of New Zealand cricket all over the world are going to be disappointed by their performance.
(5) There will be one good match somewhere:
Whether it is a victory against West Indies or Pakistan, or a come from behind win against lowly Afghanistan, they are going to do something at some point that gives fans hope, only for it to be ripped from them when they fail to make it to the semi finals.
Prediction: 6th (3-6 result)
Best opponents: Sri Lanka, Pakistan
Worst opponents: India, South Africa