New Zealand have already done some amount of winning in the absence of Brendon McCullum, but the World T20 poses a far greater challenge  © Getty Images
New Zealand have already done some amount of winning in the absence of Brendon McCullum, but the World T20 poses a far greater challenge © Getty Images

With the ICC World T20 2016 underway with the qualifiers, it is time to cast a glance at one of the most understated full-member, cricket teams — New Zealand. Under the captaincy of Brendon McCullum they came into the habit of breaking into general consciousness of the global cricketing audience with unprecedented frequency. The style of captaincy he adhered to was fresh, innovative and had its roots in all-out aggression. Unfortunately for New Zealand, the dynamic skipper, decided to hang his Black Caps boots merely weeks prior to start of the premier-most T20 tournament in the world. It will be curious to see how the team goes in his absence. ALSO READ: Australia team in T20 World Cup 2016: Reputation at stake for team aiming unprecedented

The unflappable, but subdued personality of Kane Williamson has taken over the reigns of an exciting team. However, it would be misinformed to say that captaincy is new to him. He has led New Zealand in quite a few limited-overs games, and done so with reasonable success. However, it will still be a novel experience as this will be his first big leadership assignment in a multi-team event.

The side at his disposal is capable of creating ripples in the tournament. There is adequate cover in all departments. The batting facet, led by him, is not short of class, and has a fair bit of electric players too. The bowling department has some exciting talent in ideal coupling with more experienced campaigners. And, as far as fielding goes, New Zealand have rarely been a poor side.

One major roadblock for this team will be their recent lack of experience in sub-continent conditions, specifically Indian conditions. Not too many of these bunch of players have prominantly featured in the Indian Premier League (IPL) either, which is a major boon teams like Australia and South Africa can bank on.

Given the cutthroat nature in the formatting of this competition, even making it to the semi-final stage is going to be an achievement. In their Super 10 stage pool, they will be up against the hosts and favourites India, their trans-tasman rivals Australia, an unpredictable Pakistan and a fourth team which is likely to be an ever-improving Bangladesh side.

Traditionally New Zealand have been in the habit of punching above their weight to make it to the semi-final stage of a competition at the very least. One can not rule out such a possibility in this tournament either.

Their warm up clashes against Sri Lanka and England respectively was telling of the various aspects of their preparation. Against Sri Lanka, they amassed 226 runs for the loss of just four wickets to set up a gigantic 74-run victory.

With the exception of Williamson, the batting line up fired collectively against a faltering Sri Lankan attack. Their bowling attack did well enough so as to not even give Sri Lanka a sniff at the big total. Adam Milne, equipped with spicy pace, ravaged the opposing batting line up with three scalps. Ish Sodhi headed the spin department with distinction in that game, with two wickets to his name from three overs.

In the game against England, the entire pattern of New Zealand’s batting was completely reversed. Williamson led from the front with a brisk 39-ball 63, while the remaining batsmen failed to even reach 20. They were done in by some quality spin bowling from Adil Rashid. This is worrying because, the surfaces will predominantly offer turn in India.

Up against the more formidable batting line up that England possesses, New Zealand’s pace bowlers, who did so well to restrict Sri Lanka, were unable to make a positive impact. Milne was rested from the game, but the likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan were unable to tie down the opposition. The only positive for the Black Caps from that defeat was that, spinners Mitchell Santner and Nathan McCullum did fairly well.

New Zealand’s ineptness to spin bowling comes as no surprise, but is a matter of grave concern nevertheless. The theme for the tournament will be surfaces offering some turn, and if New Zealand can’t find a way to work around that, the campaign might fall rather quickly.

Overall, the Kiwi side still looks capable of putting up a tough fight against the various teams. It must be remembered that the game they suffered defeat in was played in absence of Corey Anderson and Ish Sodhi, apart from Milne. All three are likely to be vital cogs in their wheel, once the tournament proper begins. It is an exciting prospect as to what brand of cricket they unleash under their new skipper.

(Rishad D’Souza, a reporter with CricketCountry, gave up hopes of playing Test cricket after a poor gully-cricket career. He now reports on the sport. You can follow @RDcric on Twitter)