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New Zealand tend to fly under the radar a little bit: Tom Latham

Last updated on 04 Oct 2023 | 06:55 AM
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New Zealand tend to fly under the radar a little bit: Tom Latham

The stand-in skipper his team to come hard at England in the tournament opener in Ahmedabad

The two teams who played the famous grand finale of the 2019 World Cup at Lord's will be involved in the first fixture of the 2023 World Cup on Thursday (October 5). It was England who got the better of New Zealand on boundary count to win their first World Cup title and since then have become a powerhouse in white-ball cricket. 

The two teams were involved in a four-match ODI series last month, which England won 3-1. Jos Buttler and his men play an aggressive brand of cricket and the conditions in Ahmedabad are going to be lovely for batting. New Zealand’s stand-in skipper Tom Latham, however, isn’t too worried and wants his team to come hard at England.

"I think we're lucky enough, we played England you know just a couple of weeks ago in a series. They are a team that do come hard and they've got some quality players in that side. I think from our point of view, it's trying to plan as best you can, and in terms of our scouting and in terms of areas that we want to bowl in, we want to put pressure on," said Latham. 

"It's trying to apply as much pressure as we can and then if we can do that and we can make some early inroads, then that'd be great. We know they're going to keep coming hard, which also presents us with opportunities. So, we'll have to wait and see what the conditions are going to be like. I'm sure throughout the tournament that they will change. They might change from the day time to evening time. It's just about trying to be adaptable to conditions and also adaptable to each team that we come up against."

When asked about that 2019 final, Latham said: “We've played England a lot in a few formats over the last couple of years and it's a question that always pops up, but we're solely focused on the job at hand tomorrow. 

“We've had time to certainly reflect on what a fantastic game it was four years ago and I'm sure everyone will say it's probably one of the greatest games of cricket to be played. So from our point of view - we've parked that and we're really looking forward to what the challenges present tomorrow. To play a fantastic England side in a World Cup opener is really special, can't get much better than that.”

Latham also made it clear that the Black Caps will be without their regular skipper Kane Williamson and Tim Southee. Williamson featured in both the warm-up games and scored runs, but is still not completely fit. Meanwhile, Southee’s dislocated right thumb is “still a bit tender”, but the 34-year-old has already started bowling and could be match-ready at any stage of the event.

"Any team that doesn't have Kane in it is obviously, you know, we'd certainly be better off having him. For him to be here, to be at the World Cup is a testament to the work that he's put on over the last four to five months to be where he is. So for him, it's a day-by-day process in terms of where his recovery is at. He's obviously played a little bit of a part in the last two warm-up games. You know he's been batting beautifully which is great to see and he was out in the field a couple of days ago, so he's progressing really nicely. 

"Obviously, no Kane, and no Tim as well. He's unavailable for selection just in terms of what happened to his thumb a couple of weeks ago, but he's recovering nicely. I think he's nearly two weeks post-surgery, so fingers crossed he can keep recovering. It's a bit of a day-by-day process with him in terms of what that looks like too. But he'll be available sooner rather than later.”

New Zealand have been one of the most consistent sides in the World Cup but are yet to get their hands on the trophy. In 2011 in India, the Black Caps were the only non-Asian side to make it through to the semis. Then came those two heartbreaks, with them losing back-to-back finals in 2015 and 2019. Latham knows New Zealand are often called the underdogs, but isn’t too interested in name tags and predictions and just wants to focus on playing their brand of cricket.

"I'm sure like most teams, we're not necessarily focused on what people are predicting. From our point of view, we're solely focused on what we have to do. The brand of cricket that we want to play at this World Cup is our main focus and when it comes towards the end of the tournament, if we're in those positions then that's great. But if we can play our brand of cricket in these conditions, which is obviously completely different to the last two ODI World Cups being in Australia and England, we know we'll give ourselves a good chance of being there at the end of the tournament.

"We just tend to, I guess, Kiwis fly under the radar a little bit and go about our business in the way that we want to. Every team has a different brand that they like to play, a style that they like to play in, and we have ours. We know if we do that and we play to the best of our ability, then we are hard to beat on the day. I guess that's something about these tournaments, where you play everyone once, it's about turning up on that specific day and trying to play your best brand of cricket."

For New Zealand to do well in the World Cup, Daryl Mitchell will have to continue batting the way he has been ever since making his debut in this format. The big man has featured in 29 ODIs and averages 46.59 at a strike rate of 92.3. “Darrell is someone for us that's been fantastic over the last 18 months to two years.

“The opportunities that he's been given at the top of the order, he's certainly taken those opportunities. And certainly, one-day cricket, he's been fantastic in terms of batting through and putting some big numbers on the board. I think from his point of view he goes out there and plays his style. I think the good thing about Daryl, he's adaptable to every situation. He can knuckle down if he needs to and he can obviously play an expansive brand of cricket as well if he needs to. So, I think that's the beauty about him.”

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