Cricket News Op-ed

Are New Zealand now one of the big boys? 

Rahul Naresh Rahul Naresh

The New Zealand men’s national team is due to play an away series against India on the back of a loss in the recently-concluded ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. The Kiwis can hold their heads up high, though, based on the account they have given of themselves during the tournament.

It almost seems like a repeat of the same story with New Zealand. As the tournament commenced, nobody had the Kiwis as their favourites to take the title or even make it to the final, yet they once more went under the radar and played some excellent cricket to make it to the final.

It is time we ask ourselves: “why aren’t New Zealand considered one of the top contenders in an ICC tournament?

Kiwi cricket has come leaps and bounds in the past few years, marking some remarkable feats in the world of cricket. In terms of ICC tournaments alone, the Kiwi boys have made it to the finals of all three ICC tournaments that have taken place over the last three years. They starred in the final of the 2019 ODI World Cup (as well as that of 2015), won the 2019-21 World Test Championship final against India and, most recently, lost the T20I World Cup final to Australia.


ICC Men’s ODI World Cup 2019

New Zealand’s first actual stamp of authority came in the ODI World Cup in 2019. They had just about made the cut to qualify for the semis by taking the fourth spot in the points table, having finished level on points with Pakistan but with a healthier run rate.

New Zealand’s real test, though, came against table-toppers India in the semi-final of the tournament. They had posted 239 on the board in the first innings, which many would consider below-par. A chase that was expected to be a cruise for India, however, turned out to be more demanding than ever thanks to some brilliant swing bowling at the top for New Zealand. With India losing four within the first 25 runs, the chase quickly became an uphill task. The Kiwis eventually came out on top, rightfully earning their place in the final, where they would face England.

The 2019 ODI World Cup final is considered to be one of the best clashes ever seen in an ICC tournament. The match ended in a draw, with both teams scoring 241 runs each. Trent Boult’s infamous moment on the boundary rope lingers in the memories of cricket fans to date. Ben Stokes survived and went on to perform the heroics for England. Many would argue that if luck were on New Zealand’s side, they would have been the ones holding the World Cup trophy that day.


ICC Men’s World Test Championship 2019-2021

In the end, a significant step towards becoming a cricketing giant does come from a tournament victory. The first-ever ICC Test Championship final gave the Kiwis an opportunity to make things right for all that went wrong in 2019, which they duly grabbed with both hands.

It is only fair to state that the final of the World Test Championship between India and New Zealand was utter domination. The Black Caps finished off the job on the final day of a rain-stricken Test match that suffered from sessions of play and days washed out. New Zealand comfortably chased down a meagre 140-run target with help from Ross Taylor and captain Kane Williamson.

The WTC win made the world take notice of the pedigree the Kiwi side possessed in red-ball cricket. The side, under the captaincy of Kane Williamson, looked assured and stable.


ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021

The latest of New Zealand’s accomplishments came in the T20 World Cup held in the UAE. The team performed reasonably well in group stages to take their place in the semi-finals. Although they started the tournament with a loss to Pakistan, they kicked off their campaign by defeating India and then went on to beat the rest of their Super 12 group members.

The most notable of their victories came in the semi-final clash against England. Reminiscent of the ODI World Cup clash in 2019, this game went down to the wire but ended with the Kiwis taking the victory. Daryl Mitchell provided the heroics for New Zealand on this occasion, and with supporting knocks from both Devon Conway and Jimmy Neesham, New Zealand made their way to the final, where they faced their Tasman counterparts, Australia.

Although a bold knock from Kane Williamson got the side to a competitive score, the Aussies proved too mighty on the day and took the win. However, this tournament marked yet another milestone in the Kiwis’ cricketing journey.

Questions surrounding favourites for ICC tournaments and bilateral series require examination and change. The Black Caps are not just “the nice guys” anymore; they seem to have established their dominant position in international cricket through fearsome and gritty performances.


What’s next?

Testing one’s ability after success in ICC tournaments does not get any bigger than an away series in India. New Zealand’s tour of India will begin from the 17th of November, with the two teams set to contest in a three-match T20I series and a two-match Test series.

Of course, the conditions in India will be challenging, as they vastly differ from the conditions one would find in New Zealand. Unlike the swinging and seaming conditions in New Zealand that benefit the fast bowlers, it will be the spinners who will get to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

New Zealand will include Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ajaz Patel and Will Sommerville in their spin attack against India in the Test series. It would not be a surprise to see India prepare dry and dusty wickets to assist the spinners after the carnage they caused against England earlier this year.

However, this New Zealand side will surely put up a sturdier fight and will look to proudly stamp their authority as the current Test champions of the world.



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Rahul Naresh

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