For all the cricket enthusiasts who have been following the fortunes of the Black Caps all the way from the inaugural World Cup in 1975 to 2015, it is pretty obvious that this is New Zealand’s best shot at the trophy.
The advantages are there to see. Major one being, playing at home until they reach the final. Remaining undefeated throughout the group stages, shows that they have all the ingredients to go through the next three levels, before they can lift the cup.
At the top of the batting order is one of the most attacking batsmen in world cricket, leading the team from the front. The level of damage he inflicted on opposition bowlers has made mockery of small totals. McCullum is in the field everywhere, throwing himself at the ball, just to remind everyone that he can compete with the best fielders in his team. Guptill just seems to have found his bearings at the right time, with a match winning century against Bangladesh.
At number 3 is the most improved cricketer and probably once in a generation player from New Zealand. Williamson provides the required stability at the top and has increased his range of strokes with minimal risk. In Ross Taylor at number 4 they have one of the best in business in the short form. He just seems to be a bit rough and waiting to find his touch. Followed by Taylor is Anderson, who was the record holder of fastest 100 until recently. On his day he can demolish any attack. Elliott and Ronchi comprise the rest of the lower middle order and they showed what they are capable of, in their record stand against Sri Lanka in the recently concluded home series.
The wizardry of Vettori adds more variety to the pace attack that has proved really lethal this World Cup, at the same time providing additional batting cover to the lower middle order. The combined pace attack of Southee, Boult and Milne have become too hot to handle for any team. Ask the English or Aussie team who have faced the brunt of the heat. No wonder they are leading the bowling charts. They are making the best of home conditions that are at their disposal. Not to mention the aggressive captaincy of McCullum, who has been using this attack to go for the kill every time he found an opportunity. The additional bowling options in the form of Anderson and Elliott, gives McCullum the cushion to go for wickets.
The only player who could destroy any bowling attack on his day, seems to be setting himself to be available for the game against New Zealand in the quarters.The injury to Chris Gayle has probably come at the worst time for West Indies. With the smaller grounds of New Zealand he is their best bet on his day.
Except for the partial success of Marlon Samuels, the top order for West Indies has not come to the party yet, in this World Cup, so far. It is the middle order and lower middle order of Simmons, Sammy and Russell who have delivered the goods when chips were down. The young captain can also bat, but he has contributed in games that were almost a lost cause.
The West Indies bowling has been on and off. On his day Taylor can inflict lot of damage, like he did against India and Pakistan. Its the support for him, that is really lacking, although he has the experienced Roach to share the other new ball. Their bowling is further weakened by the non availability of the best slow bowler in recent years Sunil Naraine, whose action was questioned. The other spinning options are not so threatening to run thru sides.
Right from handing over captaincy to a rookie Holder, to the dropping of Bravo and Pollard, in the selection process, things have not gone smoothly for West Indies in this World Cup. The fact that West Indies had to depend on the results of few other teams to even make it into the last 8, of this global tournament shows the level to which, the two time champion side have fallen down to.
Prediction: All in all, the contest seems to be very uneven at this juncture and New Zealand should sail through smoothly to the Semis.