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New Zealand coach optimistic despite team's poor form

Last updated on: February 8, 2011 17:35 IST

'You just have to get through the group phase'

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Recent results suggest coach John Wright is being overly optimistic about his New Zealand side's chances at the cricket World Cup when he talks about reaching the quarter-finals.

"You just have to get through the group phase," Wright said.

"We are playing teams that we have to beat, then we have got Sri Lanka, Australia and Pakistan and we have to try and get (results in) some of those games and that gets you to the next stage, then she's a one-off situation and that's exciting.

"Some of those teams have enormous pressure on them and if we put it together on the day, we can beat anyone."


Image: New Zealand's coach John Wright (right) and assistant coach Trent Woodhill
Photographs: Reuters
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They will be tested by top teams like Australia, Pakistan

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First, however, New Zealand must break a poor run of form. They have lost 14 of their last 17 One-Day Internationals, culminating in a 3-2 series loss to Pakistan that ended on Saturday.

New Zealand punched about their weight in previous World Cups, making the semi-finals three times in the last five tournaments.

Last year, however, they lost three of five games in Sri Lanka in August, with one match washed out, were embarrassed 4-0 by Bangladesh in five matches in Dhaka in October, then lost 5-0 to India in December.

The Pakistan team who beat them this year were a competent, yet not world-beating, side who have been trying to put 12 months of internal bickering, personnel changes and a betting scandal behind them.

The series highlighted several problems that will undoubtedly be tested by the top sides at the World Cup where New Zealand are drawn with champions Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya in Group A.


Image: New Zealand team celebrates

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Vettori, Nathan McCullum to be main wicket-takers

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New Zealand lack an out-and-out strike bowler and suffer from the failure by any of their stroke-making batsmen to have innings built around them and some poor bowling at the death.

A decision to play just two specialist pace bowlers in the match at Napier highlighted the dangers of relying on a team of essentially all-rounders to complement whatever medium-fast duo are selected and the left-arm spin of captain Daniel Vettori.

New Zealand also rotated their team throughout the series in order to give play to the entire World Cup squad, though the selectors changed the policy towards the end and chose their best available side in order to create some stability heading into the tournament.

While the pace trio of Kyle Mills, Tim Southee and Hamish Bennett will run in tirelessly on the lifeless pitches, with Jacob Oram and the off-cutting slow-medium deliveries of Scott Styris likely to fill the containing roles, the bulk of the wicket-taking responsibilities will likely fall to Vettori and off-spinner Nathan McCullum.


Image: Nathan McCullum

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Three pace bowlers picked

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Oram sustained an ankle injury before Saturday's final One-Dayer against Pakistan, but was cleared to travel to the World Cup.

The selection of just three true pace bowlers in the squad, despite the left-arm swing credentials of all-rounder James Franklin, also indicates New Zealand's tactics will be to either set a large target, or more likely, chase one down.

To that end they have stacked the side with exciting strokemakers who bat all the way down the order.

Wright broke up the successful Jesse Ryder/Brendon McCullum opening combination for the Pakistan series, moving McCullum back down to the lower middle order in an effort to rekindle the potent Oram-McCullum-Vettori axis of the past.


Image: James Franklin

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'It's just about getting some form and momentum going'

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Vice captain Ross Taylor suggested after the series, however, that McCullum would return as opener for the World Cup with Martin Guptill, while Ryder, who used a runner for part of his innings on Saturday because of a leg injury, would go at number three.

"The one thing about New Zealand One-Day sides is that they always appear to be at their strongest when you had great batting depth around 5, 6, 7, 8," Wright, a former India coach, said.

"When you played against New Zealand they were just a hard side to break down and we will be looking to bat as deep and with as much quality as we can around those areas.

"I think potentially the batting lineup looks very exciting and it's just about getting some form and momentum going."


Image: Jesse Ryder

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