Unfancied Kiwis come into their own

NEW DELHI • Unsung New Zealand have begun to emerge from Brendon McCullum's shadow and are revelling in their success over cricket's big guns, according to veteran Ross Taylor.

After they cruised through the Super 10 stage of the World Twenty20 in India, winning all four matches, the spotlight is moving onto a team largely devoid of household names.

While pre-tournament favourites India and World Cup holders Australia have put in nervy performances, New Zealand have appeared serene even when defending modest totals.

After McCullum's retirement on the eve of the tournament, few observers gave the Black Caps much hope in India but their unblemished group-stage record has prompted a rethink.

Taylor, himself a former captain who was replaced as skipper by McCullum, said the New Zealand dressing room is a happy place to be these days, with players comfortable in their roles.

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  • New Zealand's Mitchell Santner is the pick of the bowlers with nine wickets in the Super 10 stage.

"As the tournament has gone on, we are winning those crucial moments and putting pressure on opponents," the 32-year-old said after Saturday's 75-run victory over Bangladesh.

"Still a long way to go but it's a pretty happy dressing room and obviously we're now looking forward to the final, er, the semi-final," he added to laughter from the assembled reporters.

New Zealand's next assignment is that semi-final, in New Delhi on Wednesday, when they play England. The final is in Kolkata on Sunday.

Taylor admitted New Zealand had been lucky to win every toss in the tournament but said the team's unheralded spinners deserved praise for taking advantage of the conditions.

"Twenty20 is a very fickle game and all it takes is a world-class batsman to take it away from you. But the bowlers have to take a lot of credit for the way this team has gone so far in this tournament," he said.

Mitchell Santner, who has been playing international cricket for less than a year, is the top wicket-taker in the Super 10 stage with nine scalps, while fellow spinner Ish Sodhi has eight.

Their performances have meant pacemen Trent Boult and Tim Southee, New Zealand's premier bowlers in Test cricket, have been kicking their heels on the bench.

But Taylor said everyone had bought into the philosophy of playing horses for courses and the selections showed the strength in depth of one of the smallest Test-playing nations.

He said: "Whichever 11 go out onto the field are very comfortable in their roles and confident of doing a job for the team."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'Unfancied Kiwis come into their own'. Print Edition | Subscribe