New Zealand Black Caps fans look to Twenty20 World Cup with hope, trepidation

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Black Caps fans are bracing themselves for an emotional journey when the Twenty20 World Cup begins next month in the United States and West Indies, looking forward to the tournament with a mixture of hope and fatalism.

That mixed outlook, leaning towards pessimism, is based on New Zealand’s experience of cricket’s limited-overs World Cups, many of which have taken fans on an emotional roller-coaster before ending in disappointment.

New Zealand reached the final of the 2021 T20 World Cup, losing to Australia in the United Arab Emirates, and the semifinals of the 2016 and 2022 tournaments. The Black Caps reached the final of the 50-overs Cricket World Cup in 2015 and 2019 and the semifinals in 2007, 2011 and 2023.

In total the Black Caps have reached the ICC World Cup semifinals seven times. But New Zealand’s only win in a major limited-overs tournament came at the ICC Knockout Trophy in Kenya in 2000.

Narrow misses over the years have sowed the seeds of pessimism among New Zealand fans. But New Zealand’s competitiveness in world tournaments, including its win in the inaugural World Test Championship, also have nourished hope.

New Zealand has had the ability to assemble rounded squads with depth in all disciplines which is the prerequisite for tournament success.

“When you go to World Cups, you want experience and you want people who know what it’s like,” Black Caps head coach Gary Stead said.

New Zealand has that experience. Its squad will be led by Kane Williamson in his sixth T20 World Cup and fourth as captain. Tim Southee will lead the seam attack in his seventh Twenty20 World Cup, supported by Trent Boult in his fifth.

New Zealand has depth and variety in its spin and seam attacks. The batting lineup also is experienced and deep, featuring both power and grit.

“We’ve got bowlers who provide us with a really varied lineup as well — left-armers, right-armers, spinners who go both ways,” Stead said. “That balance part is important.

“If we play well and play with smarts then hopefully it will be a tournament we can win.”

The one notable omission in the New Zealand squad is that of a specialist wicketkeeper. Stead has chosen not to take wicketkeeper and opening bat Tim Seifert but to delegate the keeping duties to Devon Conway and Finn Allen and, at a pinch, Rachin Ravindra or Glenn Phillips.

That pinch might come at some point as Conway goes into the tournament with a thumb injury and Allen with a recent back injury. Stead is confident both will be fit in time.

Other factors of importance in a world tournament are the conditions and schedule. New Zealand is well placed when it comes to the first; 13 of its squad played in its last tour to the West Indies and six played in the Caribbean Premier League.

It faces Afghanistan in its first match in Guyana and co-host the West Indies in its second, followed by Uganda and Papua New Guinea before the Super 8 stage.

“Afghanistan in Guyana on a wicket that traditionally turns will possibly be a match that will be crucial,” Stead said.

The Afghanistan match begins the journey for Kiwis watching at home mostly in the morning or early afternoon local time. The first step, to reach the Super 8, seems a relatively easy one. But it has been taking the final that has been so difficult in the past.


AP cricket:

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