He has heard all the talk about the importance of big scores, but skipper Kane Williamson believes the Black Caps have the skills to win the Cricket World Cup in their own distinct style.
As the likes of England, India and the West Indies racked up big totals in preparation for the Cup, many are expecting totals of 350 will be regularly required to win – a task that could be deemed to be more challenging for New Zealand, wholack the amount of destructive hitterspossessed by the favourites for the title.
But, as he prepares for his side’s opening game against Sri Lanka tonight, Williamson provided his customary calm and calculated analysis as to why he’s doesn’t believe his side will need to blast from ball one in every outing.
“We know that not every game is going to be a 350 score, and we saw that in two warm-up games we played,” Williamson explained.
“I think that’s important to be aware of throughout this tournament. I guess it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and go, ‘this is what we’re going to need to’, versus ‘what we need to do now in this current situation to give us the best chance’.”
It’s a markedly different approach from where the Black Caps stood at the last World Cup. Led by Brendon McCullum, New Zealand created an aggressive brand of cricket, but Williamson explains that the current make-up of the side – featuring plenty of players adept at building long innings and accumulating – requires tactical versatility.
“I guess for us at the last World Cup there was a trend in how we played. It was about being smart with the crop that we had to try and get the best performance that we could get. It meant we were aggressive in how we played. The ball swung. We looked to utilise that as well as we could.
“We’re yet to know how things will shape in this tournament. Whether it’s guys having to push a bit harder on a particular surface on a given day, then that may be what’s required. Equally, it may not be the case and it’s about guys adjusting to perhaps what one-day cricket used to look a little bit more like where the scores are a little bit lower and much more scrappy mentality.
“So there won’t be one way to play – it’s just being smart with how we look to operate.”
Large totals might not be required tonight, for multiple reasons. Sophia Gardens is not as much of a batsman’s paradise as other venues, and that could be compounded by a wicket that was remarkably green less than 24 hours out from the first delivery.
Those conditions could make the toss important, with New Zealand’s seamers surely keen to replicate their warm-up performance against India on a similarly green track at The Oval.
Additionally, the batsmen may not need to set Cardiff alight to beat Sri Lanka, who have been horrendous in ODI cricket of late, winning just eight of their last 40 ODIs – half of which came against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe or Scotland.
They have only scored 300 four times in those 40 ODIs, but their side does still carry a degree of the unknown, with a raft of late changes meaning of the 11 who played in the last of their three defeats to New Zealand this summer, only six made the Cup squad.
The Black Caps have won 10 of their last 12 ODIs against Sri Lanka, but coach Gary Stead isn’t reading too much into past results.
“I believe every team can upset everyone here, we’ve had some good success against Sri Lanka which is great for us, but we’re certainly not going in expecting to win. We know there’s a lot of hard work that needs to be done with every single team we play.
“They still have some considerable match-winners as well, that on their day are very dangerous. The two Perera’s [Thisara and Kusal] for example, they’ve been successful against us in the past in our home summer, and we certainly need to make sure that our planning is spot on.”
That planning is nearly over, as the four-year wait for World Cup action comes to an end.