Review ICC World Twenty20: New Zealand & Sri Lanka.
The first thing that comes to mind in recent times after you hear New Zealand is 'Brendon McCullum'. Now the first thing that comes to mind in recent times after you hear 'Brendon McCullum' is that he has drawn the curtains on his international career right before the ICC World Twenty20 2016. Perhaps, the biggest setback they could have got.
Kane Williamson, 25, will lead the black caps in the world event. On McCullum's absence, Williamson said, "He [McCullum] certainly led by example and he encouraged others to do the same. I think he created a lot of leaders in the group." The best example of which is Williamson himself. McCullum was instrumental in New Zealand's ploy of ATTACK, ATTACK and ATTACK right from the word go. "That aggressive brand we have been playing has been really effective for us.", added the skipper in Mumbai.
Williamson has moved from No. 3 to opening the batting and New Zealand's batting is expected to revolve around him. To accompany him, is New Zealand's second highest run-scorer in T20Is and overall third (only behind Brendon McCullum and T Dilshan), Martin Guptill. With a batting average of 36.69 and strike rate of 127.68 in T20Is, Guptill will act as a brute force at the top of the order.
|Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson will open the batting for NZ.|
Colin Munro, 29, has reaped a lot of success after his promotion at No. 3. His T20I strike rate of 159.16 say more than words of his batting. His charging approach is best suited for T20 cricket. At No. 4, will be the tried and tested Ross Taylor. New Zealand's former captain can not only steady the ship but can launch it to all corners of the park as well. New Zealand's attacking order does not end over here. To add more to this assault will be Corey Anderson. The 25-year old left-handed batsman was once the record holder of Fastest Century in ODI cricket. His T20I batting average of 20.81 may not depict his true worth but his strike rate 144.93 certainly does. The left-arm medium pacer also has the ability to bowl his full quota of four overs.
The No. 6 position is still under scrutiny. The possible candidates are Grant Elliott and uncapped Henry Nicholls. Elliott, 36, carries huge amount of experience with him to go with his steady batting and military medium-pace bowling. If he faces the cut, it will only be because of his T20I strike rate of 103.28. Nicholls is yet to be tried at the highest level in the shortest format but the left-handed batsman may well be included ahead of Elliott. The wicket-keeping duties will be continued by Luke Ronchi who can also use the long handle down the order with a T20I strike rate of 141.09.
Tim Southee & Trent Boult will once again share the new ball for the black caps. Southee, 28, may be a touch expensive with a T20I economy rate of 8.62 but his norm of picking wickets with the new ball makes him a dangerous option. Boult, 26, is only 11 T20Is old but he has proved his metal in the ODIs and test cricket. He too can be lethal with the new ball. The biggest question which arises is whether a third seamer or an extra spinner will be part of the bowling attack. NZ can field a third seamer in one out of Michell McClenaghan or Adam Milne. McClenaghan, with a T20I average of 25.80 and economy rate of 7.68 may earn the advantage over Milne (who has a better record, T20I average of 20.83 and economy rate of 7.35) due to his experience.
|Tim Southee (R) & Trent Boult (L) will share the new ball for NZ.|
To favor the spin-friendly conditions in India, New Zealand have their highest T20I wicket-taker in Nathan McCullum (55). Whether his off-spin will be supported by Mitchell Santner's left arm orthodox or Ish Sodhi's wrist spin at the expense of a fast bowler will be interesting to see. Santner, 24, has a better T20I record in terms of bowling average and economy rate than Sodhi. The other thing which polishes his chance is his ability to bat. He may well be played at No. 6 if New Zealand desire to play an extra pacer.
The black caps have the perfect blend of experience and youth. It will be captivating to follow whether they play the same brand of attacking cricket in alien conditions of India and impress the world with the way they impressed during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
The final team of the Top 8 is the current title holders, Team Sri Lanka. The most consistent team in ICC T20 World Cup so far, reaching the knockout stage four out of five times. They reached the finals in 2009 and 2012 but eventually won the title in 2014 in Bangladesh. But the current squad is nowhere near to the squad of 2014. The major difference being the retirements of Sri Lanka's best two batsmen - Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. It was expected to be difficult for the younger lot to fill the boots of Sangakkara and Jayawardene but it is proving to be almost impossible. Leave aside matching their standards, the new batsmen are finding it difficult to cope up with the international standards.
They were thrashed by India 2-1 before managing to win only one out of four matches in the Asia Cup. But the one positive they can capture from the Asia Cup is the form of Dinesh Chandimal. Chandimal, 26, was promoted to open the batting and would hopefully continue to do so in the World Cup as well to go with his duties behind the stumps. His partner, T Dilshan may also be struggling with form but the team can definitely count on his experience. Dilshan, 39, will have to play the role of an anchor for the younger lot.
|T Dilshan (R) and Dinesh Chandimal (L) will have to bat longer for Sri Lanka.|
Sri Lanka are yet to find a regular No. 3 batsman. Shehan Jayasuriya and Dasun Shanaka fulfilled this role in the Asia Cup but both have failed to rise up to the expectations. A more elegant and sensible batsman in Lahiru Thirimanne who was brought in at the expense of Niroshan Dickwella by the newly-appointed selection committee led by Aravinda de Silva can be tried at No. 3. The 27-year old left-handed batsman has represented Sri Lanka at No. 3 several times in the longer formats. After Lasith Malinga withdrew from the captaincy due to his injury, Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka's skipper in the longer formats was handed the job in T20Is as well. Mathews, 28, should not bat anything lower than No. 4 because of his ability to guide the innings. Not to forget, he can bowl with the new ball in the powerplay claiming him as a proper all-round package. For someone who made his debut 10 years ago, Chamara Kapugedara is on the selectors' radar ever since. He possesses the talent but his inconsistencies with the bat don't allow him to cement his place in the side. Now when he has been reinstated, he needs to step up in the middle order.
Milinda Siriwardana and Thisara Perera will form the lower middle order. Both of them can increase their worth, courtesy their all-round ability. Siriwardana, 30, bats left-handed and bowl left-arm orthodox. He has tasted success in recent times and would be looking forward to play his first world event. Perera, 26, a limited-over specialist also bats left-handed and can destroy the line and length of any bowler on his given day. He too, like Mathews, bowls medium-fast and can bowl both in the powerplay and at the death.
|Thisara Perera can prove more than handy with the bat down the order.|
Sri Lanka's biggest concern in the bowling department would be the rehabilitation of Lasith Malinga. Malinga, 32, is a master of bowling at the death but the management will have to wait to take a call on him. Hopefully, he will recover before March 17 when Sri Lanka play their first match against Afghanistan in Kolkata. Nuwan Kulasekara, 33, will lead the pace bowling attack in Malinga's absence. One out of Dushmantha Chameera or Suranga Lakmal may replace (if needed) Malinga if Sri Lanka play only 2 pacers which might be possible given the conditions in Kolkata. Chameera, 24, may be preferred over the experienced Lakmal due to his recent form and express pace. Not to forget, Lakmal has just been brought in to replace Jeffrey Vandersay.
The tick in front of the spin bowling department has already been marked. Sri Lanka have the 37-year old veteran in Rangana Herath who bowls left-arm orthodox and seldom errs with his length or length. To accompany him, is another T20 specialist, right-arm off-break bowler, Sachithra Senanayake. Senanayake, 32, is capable to stop the run flow at any point of time. To strengthen their bench, Sri Lanka have Shehan Jayasuriya and Dasun Shanaka. Jayasuriya, 24, bats left-handed and bowls right arm off-break. Shanaka, also 24, can be experimented if any of Perera or Siriwardana fail because of his similar all-round abilities.
What will be interesting to see is how Sri Lanka will execute their plans with this wanting team. Not to forget, this isn't just a World Cup for them, it is their quest to defend their title.