And so, New Zealand have entered yet another World Cup. England were considered favourites to win the first semi-finals in Abu Dhabi. However, as they have so often done over the past couple of years, the Kiwis punched above their weight and defeated the fancied Englishmen. New Zealand’s progression to the finals of the T20 World Cup 2021 is not a one-off. In fact, this is their third ICC final in the last three years. They were adjudged runners-up of the 2019 World Cup final although, statistically, they should have been joint winners. Earlier this year, Kane Williamson’s men defeated a much more talented Indian outfit to lift the maiden ICC World Test Championship crown. And now, they would be vying for their maiden T20 World Cup crown.
So what is it that makes New Zealand such a dangerous team despite their obvious shortcomings and lack of star power? Kiwi opener Daryl Mitchell aptly summed it up when asked to describe the feeling of playing their third ICC final in three years. He said, “We are a bunch of Kiwis, there are just five million of us so we are proud to be representing our country. We have had some success in the last few years.” The sense of pride that Mitchell talked about is evident every time the Kiwis step out to the middle. This is why they never give up. Even in the semi-final, it seemed like a lost cause for the New Zealanders but the pride of playing for the country forced them not to give up and the end result went their way.
A method to the resolve
It would be an unfair assessment to put down New Zealand’s amazing consistency just to their resolve and pride. The fact is that the Kiwis are a very methodical side who, because they are very well aware of their limitations, are always looking to maximize their potential. This is why their planning against big sides is often top-notch and catches them off-guard. Consider this – they have never lost an ICC match to India since 2003. This is quite a sensational stat. India are, after all, one of the super powers of world cricket. In 2019, their bowlers ran through India’s prolific middle-order and when the two sides met in the T20 World Cup 2021 as well, New Zealand dismantled India in a smart fashion.
One of the best features of New Zealand cricket is that they embody the term “team” to the T. On a given day, any one of their 11 players on the field can win the match for them. Take the case of Mitchell himself. Not many critics were impressed with New Zealand’s decision to move him to the top of the order. However, the Kiwis stuck to their guns and Mitchell delivered in quite spectacular fashion against England that too in the semi-finals of the World Cup. Their unassuming leg-spinner Ish Sodhi does not get a lot of credit for his performances but is like a silent assassin, always chipping away at the wickets.
What next for New Zealand?
Despite their standout performances in recent times, there are still a few areas that the Kiwis need to work on before they can be undisputedly crowned the best all-format team in recent years. First and foremost, New Zealand will have to find a way to get past Australia in the final. Too often, the Aussies have been the Kiwis’ stumbling block in ICC events, including the 2015 World Cup final, when they were blown away.
Also, New Zealand need to start winning Test matches away from home, especially in Asian countries. New Zealand’s Test record in the sub-continent is very poor and they will need to rectify that if they wanted to be remembered as truly of the finest teams of this era. The Kiwis will be visiting India soon and it is a good time for them to start setting the record straight.