The first fixture of a cluttered ODI summer comes our way tomorrow between Aotearoa and Sri Lanka, with the World Cup looming on the horizon. The World Cup frames this summer of ODI cricket as we not only have some clear indicators from coach Gary Stead that plenty of stones will be flipped over to find the style and players required to win a World Cup in England, we also have a group of around 20 cricketers in the mix.
A pool of players who may not all be world-class, but a pool of players who at the very least are capable of executing their roles in true kiwi fashion. While the Blackcaps had Martin Guptill leading all run-scorers in the 2015 World Cup, along Brendan McCullum, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor chiming in, Grant Elliott did his job and that ended up being of equal importance. It was Trent Boult who snared oodles of wickets, along with Daniel Vettori and Tim Southee, yet Corey Anderson averaged 16.71; a better average than Boult, Vettori and Southee.
This is where we settle ahead of the 2019 World Cup as the team can fairly easily be split in two between the big-dawgs and the job-doers. Right now, we need to suss out those job-doers because barring any unforseen circumstances, Williamson, Taylor, Guptill, Southee and Boult are locked in for the trip to England in a couple of months. As important as their performances are and will be, the contributions of the job-doers has the potential to be of greater importance and this Sri Lankan series is going to be all about those looking to wiggle their way into the Blackcaps World Cup squad.
To break that down, I've done a blurb for each player on where they currently sit. Hopefully this will continue throughout the summer as we see different guys come in and out of the ODI squads, giving youz a clear and concise guide to the Blackcaps mixer. Each time I do this, I will solely focus on those players in the squad as this is their time to shine and as I suspect that coach Stead will want many squad changes throughout the summer, everyone will get their time to shine.
An outsider. Much was made in his selection of his Aotearoa 'A' work, however in three 50-over games vs India A, Bracewell took 2 wickets in 26 overs @ 4.65rpo. In 6ov of Super Smash cricket, Bracewell took 2w @ 9rpo and he desperately needs big performances vs Sri Lanka to bolster his case. Ya, ya, ya Bracewell is showing plenty of batting qualities in domestic cricket (last season and this season), but we all know how relying on bowling all-rounders to score runs on the big stage ends up.
Slightly more interesting than Bracewell because Ferguson has x-factor. Ferguson tends to get the yo-yo treatment in terms of playing one game, then not the next few and with a few bowlers hunting his spot in the mixer, Ferguson has to take his opportunities. While someone like Bracewell could make a case with some run, or thrifty economy-rates, Ferguson is all about wickets and if he can serve up 1+ wickets consistently, lovely.
Locked in, only concern is injury. Got his Super Smash campaign cracking with a 71* off 51 balls and only needs a few solid scores, along with good vibes to fight off the pesky injuries.
With an ODI average of 25.01, Henry is kinda locked in. The thing is, he needs to play and showcase these talents in Aotearoa. With just 1w in each of his last three 50-over games (two Ford Trophy, one ODI in UAE), this is Henry's big chance to remind everyone why he's hovering 25avg.
I may be alone here but I'm not convinced that Murno will be heading to the World Cup. Scores of 29, 13 and 0 in the UAE vs Pakistan, then a typically brutal 143 in the Ford Trophy before 11 and 16, followed by a knock of 1 in his lone Super Smash appearance thus far. Munro's ODI average of 24.92 dropped to 19.53 in the 13 games in 2018 and none of that paints a picture of a guy locked in for World Cup selection.
Of all the lads in this squad, I'm zoned in on Munro. Sri Lanka will present opportunities for Munro to play the batting bully (before thing change slightly vs India) and Munro's gotta prove his worth.
Ah, Mr Neesham. Power, with the ability to craft an innings and I'm intrigued about what he can offer the Blackcaps middle order. Obviously that starts with showing that he can take his Ford Trophy form into ODI cricket, but there is plenty of upside with Neesham. Neesham will bowl and is an all-rounder, however I couldn't give two hoots about his bowling. There's enough job-doing bowling depth in Aotearoa to cover that and Neesham's upside is in his batting, at the moment.
Given the amount of runs he's scored in the whites, Nicholls appears to be a very likely World Cup selection. The only spanner in the works here is the competition for middle order batting spots and while it won't take much from Nicholls to fight off that competition, playing his role in finishing innings and saving innings is crucial to the Blackcaps.
The wicket-keeper for this series, Seifert has a huge opportunity to push his case further. Likely to start in the middle order, watch out for Seifert as a possible opening contender if the stars align - if Munro can't churn out runs.
The lone spinner for this series, Sodhi also has a huge opportunity to seal his place. Competition is hot for the spinning role and as English conditions are similar to Aotearoa's, a World Cup 1st 11 would look fairly similar to 1st 11's in Aotearoa. Sodhi will be out for wickets and is a strike-weapon, designed for the middle stages of an ODI; Sodhi has to execute this role vs Sri Lanka before others get their crack.
As trendy as it is to suggest Southee's in danger, he's not. Especially not when he's a swinger off to England.
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Peace and love 27.