By Suneer Chowdhary
Until about a few months back, this would have potentially qualified to be one of the more one-sided encounters of the World Cup. A 4-0 whitewash at the hands of Bangladesh and another 5-0 by India followed by a home series defeat to Pakistan and New Zealand can ill-afford to be complacent going into the second World Cup game against Kenya at the Chepauk in Chennai.
Had it not been so close to the World Cup, many more of the Kiwi personnel would have lost their jobs after the tumultuous last six months. However, the selectors have kept their faith in the current
bunch and Daniel Vettori and co. will need to repay it back by getting some wins under their belt, starting with this Kenya game.
The batting has shown a few glimpses of getting to a point where they can be counted as a decent set of batsmen. Martin Guptill’s century against Ireland in the warm-ups was followed by a 45-ball 38 against India and he would have cemented his place at the top with Brendon McCullum as his partner.
New coach John Wright did attempt to push McCullum down the order in a manner that reminded one, of the decision to have Sachin Tendulkar at four during his tenure with India. However, for now, sense seems to have prevailed and McCullum will bat up the order.
It is the form of Ross Taylor that will concern the side. He scored 107 at 26.75 in the home series against Pakistan and 27 against India away. Every now and then, he has played innings which remind his well-wishers of his class but has shown signs of slumping away again. A big one is due and it will augur well for him and the team if happens early in the tournament.
Where New Zealand has not been able to find their consistency is the bowling. Injuries have played their part. But the good news is that the likes of Jacob Oram and James Franklin are at full throttle as effective fourth and fifth bowlers to prop the likes of Tim Southee and Kyle Mills. It is now a matter of them being able to bowl the entire duration of their quota with the same consistency.
The captain Daniel Vettori may be tempted to play Hamish Bennett as a surprise weapon to give the Kenyan batting some pace to deal with.
Kenya will want to forget their warm-ups in a hurry. Apart from the batting of Seren Waters, there wasn’t anything to write home about for the side. However, on the positive side, the discovery of Waters will add some depth to their quality which has usually over-relied on the duo of Steve Tikolo and Collins Obuya.
At 32, Thomas Odoyo may be no spring chicken but he still possesses the wherewithal to lead the bowling for his side. A little bit of help from the pitch will be enough for him to get the opposition in a tangle as his sub-30 bowling average suggests.
Speaking of the pitch, the Chennai tracks have exhibited two ends of a spectrum. On the one hand, the two African captains, Graeme Smith and Elton Chigumbura had a lot to say against the pitch they played their warm-up game on, India were able to smash 360 in their 50 overs and quell any doubts. To be fair, the warm-up games are as much about practice for the teams as they are for the venue itself and one gets the sense that it should be a flat wicket.
Interestingly, it is going to be a day game, but a 9.30 am start. It could mean that the time winning the toss may want to bat first than chase under the hot and humid clime of the city.
New Zealand (from): Daniel Vettori (captain), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Luke Woodcock, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Jamie How.
Kenya (from): Jimmy Kamande (captain), Alex Obanda, Elijah Otieno, Rakep Patel, Seren Waters, David Obuya, Collins Obuya, Tamnay Mishra, Maurice Ouma, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Steve Tikolo, Thomas Odoyo, Shem Ngoche, James Ngoche, Peter Ongondo.
Umpires: Rod Tucker (Australia) and Marais Erasmus (South Africa)
Time: 14:30 local (04:00 GMT)
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