Three solid wins from the first three games for Aotearoa's Blackcaps have come with a few lads who many would deem as 1st 11 players, not playing. Depending on who you ask, Henry Nicholls is a definite 1st 11 Blackcap while Tim Southee and Ish Sodhi are slightly more contentious selections, although both look comfortable in Aotearoa's 1st 11. Transport yourself back to any stage during the kiwi summer and ponder the fact that no one from that trio would play any of the first three games and you'd respond with a wtf, or alright ... how?
In the case of Southee and Nicholls, injuries have apparently hindered their progress. While I don't doubt their reported injuries, it does feel convenient and I'd suggest that Southee and Nicholls would have been healthy enough at some stage during that three game period to play, if needed. Instead, the seamers have been doing a great job so there hasn't been a need for Southee and then that seam heavy attack makes it difficult to include Nicholls into the middle order, plus Colin Munro had a good knock in the first game making it tricky to then drop him for Nicholls.
The lack of clarity on team selection leading into the World Cup has continued to this point and understandably so, given how the first three games played out. Now things are getting funky with Thursday night's game against India marking the point at this World Cup where the Blackcaps have to hit a higher level of play.
There is a decent case to be made for the Blackcaps sliding out the same playing 11 from the first stanza. I'm of the belief that Australia may have played the long-game in their loss to India, not necessarily zoning in on the result and perhaps just take the time to suss out a key opponent etc. Wins and losses are important, hence it was crucial to rack up three wins and not slip up for Aotearoa. Now, there is somewhat of a luxury to take this 11 into the game against India and see what they can do.
From there, changes can be made or not made. It feels strange to give a set 11 three games in a row and then swap it around for a big game vs India. I doubt many people view that team from the first three games as the strongest possible 11 and with that in mind, giving them a crack vs India could be viewed as risky - or a chance to learn.
Alternatively, the same vibe could lead to changes. If Aotearoa adopt the 'we'll try bloody hard, but we're not desperate to win this specific game' vibe, then they could bring in Southee, Nicholls and Sodhi to see what they can do under pressure, in their first outings of this Wold Cup.
Spin hasn't really been a factor at Nottingham, where this Aotearoa vs India game will be played. Three games have been played at Nottingham with all 13 wickets from Pakistan losing to West Indies taken by seamers, then 12 of 17 wickets in Pakistan's win over England went to seamers, then 17 of 19 wickets in Australia's win over West indies went to seam.
Nottingham is where Ish Sodhi has played the bulk of his T20 Blast career and as Nottingham has already hosted three games, it could lend itself to spin as it's been heavily used. India however, torched Glenn Maxwell (6.42rpo) and Adam Zampa (8.33rpo), making it a fair risk to selected Sodhi and Mitchell Santner.
Southee and Nicholls could be competing for the same selection. The idea alone of changing the opening combo during a World Cup, seems fairly crazy and I'd at least give Colin Munro another crack against India to see if he can step up. This then leads me to an odd man out scenario with Colin de Grandhomme, who did exactly what CDG does in his lone innings with the bat and has a bowling record of 3w @ 22.33avg/4.78rpo in 14 overs at this World Cup.
You could very easily, bring in either Southee or Nicholls for de Grandhomme. Southee's inclusion would bolster the bowling stocks - which probably need bolstering vs India - while Nicholls would add a batsman and the Blackcaps probably need extra batting vs India. Do the Blackcaps concede that India will score big and roll with an extra batsman, or be aggressive in trying to limit India's scoring by picking a senior seamer?
This will give us strong insight into the attitude of the Blackcaps, which based on the past 12-18 months doesn't feel overly aggressive, attacking or funky. Aotearoa could give Sodhi a chance and go full attacking mode, or they could go super comfortable and stick to the script that tends to work in Aotearoa. And/or not change anything to let this current 1st 11 figure things out against a classy Indian team.
The mindset of the Blackcaps is the most interesting thing about this game vs India. Right now, I'm open to all attitudes/mindsets and selection combinations because my whole centre point for this World Cup is adapting to situations. The Blackcaps low key feel like a bit of a Swiss Army knife that is equipped to deal with whatever each game throws up and now we get to see if there is such clarity in how the Blackcaps approach an enticing game against India.
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Peace and love 27.