2019 Cricket World Cup: All Hail The Underdogs


Forget the weird blue cheese taste left from the last three games and banish the long list of shenanigans from selectors and NZC, Aotearoa's Blackcaps are in the Cricket World Cup semi-final. That in itself is a pass mark for this World Cup as I wasn't convinced that Aotearoa would be able to ride the long World Cup wave, sustaining consistent performances and enjoying varied contributions.

Although, the Blackcaps haven't been able to ride the long World Cup wave, nor have they sustained consistent performances and are yet to enjoy varied contributions. South Africa's capitulation at this World Cup and West Indies failing to step into any dark horse potential, made Aotearoa's path that little bit easier and a bunch of other little wrinkles have resulted in a semi-final crack. Regardless of how we feel about the Blackcaps, they are meant to be in this semi-final because the cricketing gods said so.

Not only are the Blackcaps in the semi-final, but they are exactly where they and most kiwis want to be as underdogs. This has kinda played out perfectly for Aotearoa and I'm even willing to wiggle away from those three losses to suggest that this is now a whole new tournament, ideas of momentum and confidence apply but the Blackcaps won't have any hangover from those losses. Their tournament starts now.

That's easier to buy into, considering the terrible form of so many Blackcaps. If the likes of Martin Guptill, Colin Munro or Henry Nicholls, Tom Latham, Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham had been making hefty contributions and the Blackcaps performed strongly as a unit, yet still lost those three games, I'd feel different. There is a whole new layer to Blackcaps cricket that hasn't been activated in this World Cup yet and that is where hope resides.

From there, the best thing you can do in preparation for this game is to forget about any Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult and perhaps Lockie ferguson contributions. Assume that Williamson and Taylor especially, won't get any runs and as difficult as it is to imagine, assume that someone else will need to step up ... that numerous players will need to step up.

Even if Williamson and Taylor score the bulk of the runs, someone else will need to do something. This is the DNA of kiwi sport as every Aotearoa team is the sum of its parts and less about the superstars, our sporting identity revolves around a team coming together to perform at a high level collectively. That's the only way Aotearoa wins this semi-final vs India and while their is little evidence to suggest that Guptill and whoever his opening partner may be, can put up a decent opening stand for example, that's where our hope resides.

I reckon the idea of one big performance from an opener or anyone else, is far more realistic than their continued failure. The idea of Guptill scoring runs seems more realistic than Guptill spending this whole World Cup in meh form and of all the Blackcaps, Guptill may be the most important. Latham is there as well; if Guptill and Latham score runs, the Blackcaps will be in a good spot.

This game will be played at Manchester, where 12 of 71 wickets have fallen to spin bowling at this World Cup. 5 of those 12 spin wickets were taken by Indian spinners and India have the second best spinner at this World Cup so far in leggie Yuzvendra Chahal. India will back their spinners to trouble the kiwi batsmen and this is juxtaposed against the Blackcaps more than likely relying on their seamers; spin tends not to work at Manchester and Aotearoa's spinners have been non-factors so far.

Selecting Ish Sodhi would be brave, completely against the safe ideals of this Blackcaps group. The Sodhi/Santner combo could be an interesting doosra to chuck in the mix at this stage of the tournament, especially when India's batsmen may be keen to lay into the Tim Southee/Matt Henry/Colin de Grandhomme type of seamers. The status-quo bowling stuff from Aotearoa feels like it would play into what India want and I'm pondering a more funky approach.

I'm pondering it, but not confident we will see any funky selections. As such, if the status-quo seam attack is rolled out, I'm struggling to see Aotearoa bowling India out, unless the ball is hooping around. All of which puts the focus back on the batsmen, Guptill, Nicholls and Latham and how they want to be remembered from this World Cup.

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Peace and love 27.