NZ look to experience, adaptability at T20 World Cup

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson plays behind square on the legside. Photo: Getty Images
Kane Williamson brings plenty of experience to the Black Caps. File photo: Getty Images
New Zealand have long made a virtue of taking each challenge as it comes and while it might not make for much excitement at press conference time, it has not harmed their performances at major tournaments.

Masters of tournament craft at least until the business end, the Black Caps have reached the semi-finals at four of the eight T20 World Cups and lost the 2021 final to neighbours Australia.

The June 1-29 tournament in the Caribbean and United States will present new challenges -- an expanded field to 20 teams and a variety of conditions over the disparate venues -- but undoubtedly New Zealand will be meticulously prepared.

Gary Stead's squad has a profusion of experience with five players having been around since the 2016 T20 World Cup and only two, seamer Matt Henry and exciting all-rounder Rachin Ravindra, making their tournament debuts.

The quality of the balanced squad captained by Kane Williamson is illustrated by the fact that nine New Zealanders prepared for the tournament against the best players in the world in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

"We know if we can play some good cricket then we can compete with all teams in the world," Stead said at the team training camp at Mount Maunganui's Bay Oval in mid-May.

"We're looking forward to the challenge that's ahead, and also the unknown of some of these new teams as well, the difference that they might bring. We have to be really, really complete with our planning and readiness for those teams."

New Zealand will play no warm-ups before their World Cup opener against Afghanistan in Georgetown, Guyana on June 7, a fixture Stead thinks will be one of the most challenging in a Group C that also includes co-hosts West Indies.

"I think it's going to be a very tough game," he said. "We've watched them grow as a cricketing country and ... I think there's no doubt they'll be more comfortable in the slower and spin-friendly conditions that we're likely to face in Guyana.

"So that's a really big challenge for us, but I guess we will lean on the experience of our guys."

The second game against West Indies takes them to Trinidad, where they will also play their last two group games against minnows Uganda and Papua New Guinea.

"It's pretty simple, really, to make the next round you've got to be in the top two teams," Stead added. "And that's our first focus and we won't look too far further than that."

If they progress, the Super 8 could take them to Barbados and Saint Vincent or Saint Lucia and Antigua and the Black Caps have been preparing on a variety of surfaces at Bay Oval.

"It's one of the things we try and talk about as a team is our ability to adapt to the different surfaces and to the different teams we face," Stead said.