Today Aotearoa's Blackcaps take another step towards the World Cup, sparking up their ODI series vs Bangladesh like a buckie. Bangladesh haven't played an ODI since December when they hosted West Indies and compared to India, Bangladesh come to Aotearoa with kinda terrible preparation for ODI cricket.
This is low key important when we ponder the value of the Blackcaps performances both individually and as a team. India came to Aotearoa fresh off a tour to Australia and were not only prepared for kiwi conditions, they were incredibly settled in terms of team selections and how they go about their ODI business. Bangladesh aren't as good as India and don't have anything close to the same preparation, which has me approaching this ODI series in similar fashion to the series vs Sri Lanka.
We know such logic doesn't reside in the half of Lesson that remains making Blackcaps decisions, a niggly prospect considering that runs/wickets from the likes of Colin de Grandhome, Todd Astle, Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner could be celebrated without a hefty dose of context. Take de Grandhomme for example, who is a typical Blackcaps bully capable of racking up dominant performances in favourable conditions against weaker teams. What value does that hold compared to performances against India?
I view this as meaning that we merely need to be cautious in assessing players based on this series vs Bangladesh. My job is to offer that context, dive deep into performances and try my bestest to absorb the variables in assessing which of these fringe players is building a strong case for World Cup selection.
The flipside is that it could be easier to play yourself out of World Cup selection. Even that idea requires context though. For de Grandhomme and Santner, they are coming off a poor series vs India in which de Grandhomme average 40 with the ball/7 with the bat and Santner 95 with the ball/13 with the bat. Those aren't just bad numbers, they are horrible, so bad that they can't be swept over.
Astle has performed alright in ODI's vs Pakistan and West Indies, in Aotearoa. Nothing to demand certain selection and in his 7ov vs India, there was a solid vibe to his work without much certainty that he could be a World Cup x-factor. Astle's apparent batting prowess resulted in 10 runs @ 62.50sr and this is Astle's chance, against another weak-ish touring team to prove his worth.
Neesham is in the best position of this group. The move of Henry Nicholls up the order presents Neesham with further batting opportunities, likely to bat #6 and with nice performances in the bag from recent series, Neesham has to continue on this path.
The low key thingy to pay close attention is the seam bowling department, where Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry are in a hostile battle for selection. Ferguson hit a reality check after strong performances vs Pakistan, then Sri Lanka and finished the series vs India with 3w @ 59.66avg/6.39rpo. Henry took all 4 of his wickets in one game and only bowled 18ov in two games vs India.
Because Henry was delightful in that final ODI vs India, that memory reinforces his underground king status. That feels slightly superficial though, from a small sample size and I'm eager to see how Henry performs with more opportunities. In theory, Henry should dominate Bangladesh in Aotearoa as it's a series designed for guys like Henry (and Southee/Trent Boult).
We're still learning about Southee at the moment - trying to solve the Southee riddle. Ideally we get a wee bit of clarity about Southee and his true ODI value vs Bangladesh, otherwise we'll be heading into a World Cup with immense speculation regarding his selection.
Discussing the openers is all the rage right now and I've seen plenty of mainstream headlines zoning in on Colin Munro and Martin Guptill. To put it in the the most simple form; Nicholls is a better all-round batsman than Munro. The weird thing is that they play very different roles in the Blackcaps ODI team as openers and understanding those roles then provides a platform to judge from.
Munro was purely selected to whack at the top of the innings, like Brendon McCullum. What we saw over time though, was that Munro wasn't/isn't B-Mac and no one is. What McCullum did was extremely difficult in whacking the best bowlers, who have done all sorts of research on the batsman and as expected, Munro was tied up by India's supreme skill and planning.
If Munro is selected, he's selected to be Munro and as soon as that happens, failure, or consistent failure with sporadic fireworks is the likeliest outcome. If Nicholls is selected, then it's more about laying a platform up top and Nicholls shouldn't be asked to play the Munro role, or the B-Mac role.
What you prefer, depends on what you want from your opening pair. Personally, I want Nicholls and Guptill to bat 10ov more often than not, alowing for Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor to control the middle stages. The fascination with what B-Mac did, has some people thinking that you need to come out swinging to post a big ODI total and this has flowed into wanting the Munro type as a Blackcaps opener.
This differs to what Rohit Sharma offered in the series vs Aotearoa though. Sharma went 50+ twice, scoring with a strike-rate of 71.61 and even Shikhar Dhawan finished the series with a strike-rate of 81.73 with two 50+ knocks. These two showed that there is value in using skill and craft to handle the opening stanza of an innings, then either cashing in or laying the platform for others to cash in.
Munro isn't that guy. Maybe Nicholls is. Either way, the Blackcaps have to suss out what they want from their openers and then build the innings accordingly.
Hit an ad to support the Blackcaps spinz.
And please support the Niche Cache was we try to build our base on Patreon. Support the underdogs as best you can, a little goes a long way.
Peace and love 27.