Hatem Rajabdeen, John Heads & Marcuss Deane
New Zealand Squad
Daniel Vettori (captain), Shane Bond, Ian Butler, Martin Guptill, Gareth Hopkins, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Aaron Redmond, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor
New Zealand featured in the semi final of the first T20 World Cup and if they play to their potential should certainly look to feature at the very least in the semis of this one. This is perhaps setting the benchmark a bit low for a New Zealand team that should certainly be looking to win this World Cup. Vettori and his men have finally shaken off the 'underdog' tag in the limited over's format of the game (despite wearing it still in Tests) and have been in the top four in ODI cricket for a while now. Led by Vettori New Zealand have seen massive amounts of success in recent years, though you could more aptly describe this as 'near success'. For a team that has become so competitive in limited over's cricket they need to start winning instead of only making the finals. They had no better opportunity to do this than now.
Watch out for:
Tim Southee: Sehwag and his Indian team-mates belted Southee for 100 runs in an ODI and his confidence visibly took a battering. Yet young Southee went away and he worked on his limited over's bowling, adding useful slower balls and yorkers to an arsenal that was primarily only useful with the new ball. He has transformed himself from a bowler that was a liability without the new ball in his hands into a bowler who thrives during the death over's. Southee showed glimpses of his penchant for bowling in pressure situations against Australia and will look to show the world what he has to offer at this world cup.
Jesse Ryder: The injury of Big Jess was a huge loss for New Zealand. A destroyer of any kind of bowling on his day he has been sitting on the benches for far too long from a New Zealand point of view. This return from injury initially had me worried that he would be out of form, slow to regain his dominance, yet already he is reportedly back to his best. This is his first trip to the West Indies as a black cap and this possible future great New Zealand batsman will be looking to set his mark.
Scott Styris: I was one of those who thought Scott Styris career was over, that he would never wear a black cap again and we should look to a younger generation of players. Styris than proceeded to flay New Zealand domestic attacks and show the youngsters how it was done. The sheer force of runs he scored forced his way back across previously thought burnt bridges and he then proceeded to return to business as usual when New Zealand faced off against Australia. He along with Ross Taylor was easily our best batsman. So the Virus is back and out to cement his place in the New Zealand team. Styris traditionally loves West Indian conditions, dominating in the last ODI world cup that was held here. He also offers an excellent bowling option, his cutters on slow wickets have the potential to win matches.
The New Zealand top order appears steady with the return of Ryder. Jesse will join McCullum and Guptill will drop down to number 3. Taylor and Styris will then make up the 4 and 5 positions; possibly alternating positions depending on the start their top order gives them. The lower middle order is likely to be occupied by season veterans Oram and Vettori as well as back up wicket keeper Hopkins. While I still believe McCullum should keep being the best keeper New Zealand has, Hopkins should still be New Zealand's first choice number 6. He appears to have an excellent cricketing brain and can turn the strike perhaps better than any other New Zealand batsman as well as being perfectly capable of playing the aggressor role.
The most contentious part of the New Zealand line-up is the bowling. With players such as Styris, Oram and Vettori New Zealand already have 12 reliable overs of bowling before they get to their genuine bowling positions. Bond is the obvious first choice bowling option, after that the final two positions are a bit harder to pick. Southee, Mills, N McCullum and Butler all have their own cases. Southee I think is needed after his at times sublime bowling against Australia in the death. The final position in my team goes to Nathan McCullum due to the slow nature of these West Indian pitches. If any of the bowlers fail, Mills should be the next man to get a chance.
New Zealand shouldn't underestimate Zimbabwe or Sri Lanka in their group. Both teams have strong spinning stocks, an asset that could determine the winner of this world cup. They have a few of the greatest T20 players in the world in McCullum, Taylor, Vettori and Bond and those players alone could see them go far in this tournament. New Zealand is more than this though, a team full of excellent bowling options that may have the strongest team of the tournament with NcCullum at 9 and Southee at 10. If they come together and play as the cohesive unit that they have so often shown themselves to be New Zealand may finally get their hands on a world cup.
CW Predicted XI
Daniel Vettori (c)
Sri Lanka Squad
Kumar Sangakkara (captain), Muthaiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, T.M.Dilshan, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga, Thissara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekera, Ajantha Mendis, Suraj Randiv, Dinesh Chandimal, Chanaka Welagedera, Chintaka Jaysinghe.
The Lankan Lions who were finalists in the last edition of the T20 World Cup go into this one with a blend of youth and experience. They have had a mix set of results over the last year or two both on and off the field. The team came back together and have been a strong unit after being on the receiving end of a terrorist attack in Pakistan last year. They have been consistent in the shorter version of the game. They were disappointed not to win the last edition having dominated the entire tournament on route to the final.
They have an able leader in Kumar Sangakkara who along with Mahela Jayawardena and T.M.Dilshan will be their key batsman at the top of the order. The middle order will possess players capable of producing the big shots namely Kapugedera, Jayasuriya, Mathews and Thissara Perera. The bowling has been one of the best in the T20 circuit spearheaded by the slinger Lasith Malinga, arguably the best T20 bowler in the world today. Malinga had a successful IPL this year and will be raring to go after being in and out of the side since his return from injury. The squad also possess Sri Lanka youth team wicket keeper and former captain Dinesh Chandimal who has been rewarded for his rich domestic form.
On their day the Lankans are capable of taking any team apart and would be on as one of the favorites for the tournament. Notable omissions from the side are Dilhara Fernando (who has been in prime form at the IPL), Thilina Thushara and Upul Tharanga (who missed out in favour of Jayasuriya).
Watch out for:
Mahela Jayawardene: Arguably Sri Lanka's best batsman and a lot will depend on Mahela specifically with the dip in the form of TM Dilshan and the ups and downs in skipper Sangakkara's form. He is fresh from a highly successful IPL 2010 where his fortunes reversed once sent up the order. He scored 439 runs at a strike rate of 147. He's tipped to open the innings alongside Dilshan making it one of the best in the competition. Jayawardene will have to play to his potential and reputation if Sri Lanka is to use the power plays to good effect.
Lasith Malinga: Malinga with his nippy and slinging action has caused problems to almost all the worlds leading batsman. Rated by many as arguably the best T20 bowler and easily the best bowler at the death. His ability to bowl the inswinging yorker at any given time makes him a bowler hard to get away for runs. After a highly successful IPL 2010 where he took Mumbai to the finals he will be raring to go.
Angelo Mathews: Rated by many as the best genuine all rounder Sri Lanka has produced post attaining Test status. He's been a great success since coming into the senior side and was one of Sri Lanka's stars in the last edition scoring runs and taking wickets when it mattered. Mathews has the ability of playing the big shots in this version of the game and is a good finisher. He was a regular in the Knight Riders team at the IPL proving that leaving him out of their line up last year was a big mistake. Mathews will be a player to watch with his amazing ability to read the game and his thinking places him on top of the list to replace Sangakkara as Sri Lanka's next captain.
CW Predicted XI
Prosper Utseya (captain), Andy Blignaught, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Greg Lamb, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Chris Mpofu, Ray Price, Vusi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor.
While many have already writen off Zimbabwe's chances in the competition before the first ball has even been bowled, many more are awakening to the realistic prospect that the African nation could spring an upset against one of either New Zealand or Sri Lanka, maybe even both, and progress to the second round of the tournament. With wins against Australia and Pakistan in their two warm up matches and a victory against the West Indies back in February; Zimbabwe have shown that any side who comes up against them can no longer expect an easy victory.
The strength of this Zimbabwe lineup resides in their spinning stocks which ranks alongside the very best in International cricket today. With the West Indian pitches expected to be on the slow side, this will play into Zimbabwe's hands and may act as a leveller in each of their matches. Whilst some sides are stacked full of explosive batsmen, they may not have enough to combat this Zimbabwean bowling attack who will look to choke out their opponents during the middle overs.
Watch out for:
Brendan Taylor: Sometimes criticised for getting out when trying to play too aggressively, nobody will be able to level such accusations at Taylor over the course of this competition. A considerable player in the Zimbabwean middle order it will be hoped that Taylor can score freely throughout the middle of the innings before launching an onslaught towards the backend of the innings. With the ability to turn a moderate total into an imposing one or a difficult chase into a routine one, Taylor has the potential to play a massive part in determining Zimbabwe's fate in the competition.
Elton Chigumbura: Regarded as one of the biggest hitters around in International cricket, Chigumbura is capable of taking the game away from whoever is bowling at him in the course of no more than two overs. Not only is he an explosive player with bat in hand but Chigumbura will be expected to offer some value with the ball if Zimbabwe need to call upon him.
Ray Price: Arguably Zimbabwe's most potent threat with ball in hand is the experienced Ray Price. After 20 overs of International Twenty20 cricket Price has conceded only 70 runs, leaving him with an economy rate of 3.50 that would be considered exceptional in 50 over cricket in the modern era but to maintain such an economy in Twenty20 is an outstanding accomplishment. Despite not being a massive turner of the ball, the slow West Indian pitches will assist Price's flight and guile which could see him be one of the best bowler's in the early stages of the competition. It would be of no surprise whatsoever to see Price open the bowling at least once over the course of the tournament.
CW Predicted XI