Given what happened in terms of selection leading into the 2017 Champions Trophy and then performances at that Champions Trophy in England, it would have been lovely to have a Blackcaps World Cup squad that had zero head-scratcher selections. The good news is that those making the selection decisions appear to have learned some sort of lesson in rolling with a bunch of lads who played a lot of ODI cricket over the summer. There appears to have been a slither of planning, which with the wider context in mind is a beautiful thing.
The selection of Tom Blundell is the spanner in the works. I won't even call Blundell a bolter, or a surprise selection; Blundell's selection makes absolutely no sense. While I will explore Blundell's selection a wee bit here, I need to start by saying that it doesn't really matter as Blundell hopefully won't play at the World Cup and has essentially been selected to run drinks, offer throw-downs and get paid to experience a World Cup.
Even though this selection is low key bonkers and a sign that not a whole lot has changed in the Blackcaps regime, ideally it won't matter. Sure, Tom Latham could get injured and then Blundell has to step up. Hopefully not, because in his six List-A (50-over) summers, Blundell has averaged over 30 just once.
There's hope for all you battlers yet as you can be apparently be a Blackcap ODI wicket-keeper/batsmen while averaging under 30 in five of six seasons, in the 50-over format. Let that sink in folks. No centuries, three halfies and nothing to suggest that Blundell is among the best 50-over wicket-keeper/batsmen in Aotearoa. Blundell may be next in line to BJ Watling in Test cricket and fair play (quite debatable given the work of Tim Seifert, Dane Cleaver, Cameron Fletcher) but Blundell has done little to command this ODI nod.
The yarn being trotted out is that Blundell's wicket-keeping prowess is superior to the others. I'd suggest that the cluster of kiwi wicket-keepers is so tightly packed that it's very difficult for one of them, Blundell in this case to be viewed as so astronomically better than the others. Especially not when Seifert was alright in his ODI opportunities this summer - Seifert's injury must have been terrible to rule him out of selection.
What I want to settle on though, is that there is very little need for another wicket-keeper in the squad. I can understand the idea of wanting to be prepared for all situations and that's why, in a worst-case scenario, Henry Nicholls can play as a wicket-keeper. I must reinforce 'worst-case' scenario; if shit hits the fan and the slim chances of Latham being ruled out of games occur, then Nicholls can do a job.
Will Young would have been useful as batting cover and this is enhanced with the volatile situation of the opening spots. Martin Guptill isn't exactly a certainty to sustain availability and Colin Munro has a cloud of uncertainty hovering over his noggin' which even with Nicholls in the squad, doesn't leave the Blackcaps a whole lot of wiggle room.
Doug Bracewell or Todd Astle could have also been more useful in Blundell's spot. Not only is injury more likely in the bowling/all-rounder group, the chances of needing to tinker with the rotation are higher in this aspect of the squad. Being locked down with Colin de Grandhomme doesn't exactly fill me with confidence and again, more wiggle room would have been nice.
These are all ideas revolving around the last few squad spots and this all depends on your mindset as a joker trying to survive and thrive on this planet. This Blackcaps World Cup squad has a vibe of preparing for the worst and my natural inclination is to go to a World Cup with as many cricketing weapons or options as possible; ready to have a fuckin' crack.
Selecting Ish Sodhi didn't need to be about Sodhi vs Astle and could have very easily been flipped into Sodhi/Astle vs Blundell. Sodhi got the nod for the World Cup, yet it didn't need to be at the expense of Astle, or Bracewell and we are heading into the World Cup with very fixed structures. This may be a great idea, however we saw very little in the series vs India that the fixed structures of this Blackcaps ODI group are going to be competitive at the World Cup.
Munro's selection I believe is directly related to the amount of runs that will probably be scored in England. The England ODI team played a series vs West Indies a few weeks back and the amount, or the way runs were scored played into Munro's hands. I'm of the view that there are multiple routes to scoring 300+ and whack whack isn't the only way, but having Munro there will at least off the whack whack way.
There aren't a lot of options here though, thanks to the usual mediocre Blackcaps planning and this squad selection. Now it's either Munro or Nicholls to open alongside Guptill, as no one else was groomed for that role and there were a few other options, even in the wicket-keeping bracket that would have offered better batting versatility than Blundell.
One of the few common factors from the Champions Trophy to this World Cup, is Gavin Larsen and his fingerprints are all over this squad. The same influence that saw a whole range of odd selections over the summer with the ODI group and while the bulk of the World Cup 1st 11 picks itself, selecting a bloke who has done nothing to demand ODI selection for a World Cup squad is a gloriously Larsen thing to do.
How do I feel about the Blackcaps World Cup chances? Hopeful, yet realistic.
The is a battler-ish nature to this Blackcaps squad, which will play into the 'dark horse' hopes of Aotearoa. I feel like this World Cup will be about firepower - firepower to score 300+ and equally important firepower to take wickets and restrict team to low scores - and there is little proven firepower in this Blackcaps unit.
Also, this World Cup will see Aotearoa play every team. The lack of firepower idea can be relevant in the sense that if Aotearoa struggles in a few games, they are restricted in what can be done to throw up different combos. I get the vibe that this World Cup could have huge ramifications for kiwi cricket depending on how the Blackcaps perform.
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Peace and love 27.