Rahul Dravid captained the Indian team in the 2007 World Cup © Getty Images
Rahul Dravid captained the Indian team in the 2007 World Cup © Getty Images

Former India captain Rahul Dravid has described co-hosts New Zealand as “serious contenders” for the upcoming cricket World Cup starting February 14. “I think they’ve got a really really good pace attack. That’s why you look at them and you think these guys are one of the serious contenders,” Dravid said on ‘Contenders’, a special World Cup build-up show on ESPNcricinfo.

From being perennial dark horses New Zealand are being described as among the favourites and Dravid believes that the home pressure will not weigh too much on the Black Caps. “I think with New Zealand it’s a much smaller country, sure they’ll expect their team to do well but you’re not going to talk about winning straightaway. I think the pressure is going to be less on the New Zealand players,” said the cricketer-turned-analyst.

Always a keen student of the game, Dravid realises the importance of leadership in cricket and feels that Brendon McCullum has the quality to inspire the Kiwis. “Under pressure when you need someone to make that key tactical change, that key intervention that can actually turn the game, you’d back him [Brendon McCullum] to do it because he’s been in that position before, he’s been someone who has experienced it all,” said Dravid.

Riding on top-order batsman Kane Williamson‘s belligerent run-making in the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, New Zealand have shown their ‘might’ and Dravid is all praise for the No.3 batsman’s rise. “He’s really creative, he’s got some really good shots. Because he can score quickly without actually looking like he’s taking risks, he’s actually a good classical batsman who is able to find the gaps, hit good cricketing shots, he’s got good consistency as well,” said Dravid, who once personified the No.3 position.

The bowling, led by Tim Southee, also has the potential to match the best of the best and Dravid is impressed with the pace spearhead’s wicket-taking ways. “Good control of the yorker under pressure. I think that’s one of the things about Tim Southee. That’s a critical ball to be able to bowl at the back end and we all know that that’s the obvious thing but it’s an extremely hard ball to execute under pressure,” he said.

Commenting on Daniel Vettori‘s invaluable presence in the team, Dravid, who had played a fair bit of cricket against the left-handed all-rounder, said that nothing can replace experience. “Whether he can stay fit through the tournament and how they’ll have to nurse him through the tournament will be interesting to see but there is no doubt that he brings quality and he brings experience to the table, which you cannot buy at a supermarket,” Dravid concluded.