After beating Sri Lanka by a convincing 115 runs in the third and final ODI, New Zealand started off 2019 brilliantly with a 3-0 series whitewash of their Lankan counterparts. Albeit the win came against a metamorphosizing Sri Lanka, the comprehensive style of it begs one to question if the Kiwis are well and truly the dark horses for the 2019 ICC World Cup.

While hosts England and second ranked team India are the favourites for the coveted trophy, Kane Williamson’s side are stealthily forming a strong push for the trophy. Veteran batsman Ross Taylor is probably the best player in the world on current form, with six consecutive 50 plus scores which includes two centuries. The middle-order bat has an impeccable average of 74.4 since the start of 2017. Taylor’s batting heroics are well supported by captain Williamson, Henry Nicholls and opener Martin Guptill who have been in good form as well. 

The Kiwis also seem to have found a reliable finisher in this Sri Lankan series in James Neesham, whose aggressive batting helped them set a target of above 320 runs in all the three ODI’s. Also, Neesham made a comeback to the side only due to New Zealand’s first choice all-rounder, Colin De Grandhomme, being rested for this series. 

Williamson also has the good fortune of having a vast array of quality bowlers to choose from as the World Cup comes nearer. Veterans Trent Boult and Tim Southee seem to be peaking to their best form at just the right moment; and have some promising youngsters like Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry etc complimenting the old guard. Even in the spin department, the Kiwis seem well stocked with Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santhner as well as Ajaz Patel whose Test heroics helped the Black Caps to a historic away series victory against Pakistan. 

The Sri Lanka whitewash was by no means a freak result for the Kiwis, who also pummelled Sarfraz Ahmed’s Pakistan five to nothing when they visited their shores in January of last year; and followed that up with a gritty 1-1 series draw in the middle east. The only series that New Zealand lost in the whole of last year was a narrow 3-2 defeat against number one ranked England. 

A stern test of this side’s World cup credentials would be their home series against India. The Indian team management have already mentioned they intend to play their World cup hopefuls in all upcoming tours. Therefore, Williamson and his men have a great opportunity to assert their authority over a World Cup favourite in that ODI series. 

Many felt New Zealand blew their best chance of winning the World Cup four years ago when they fell tamely in the final despite having some of the best players of the decade like Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills and Grant Elliott. However, fast forward four years and the Kiwis seem like they have the perfect blend of youth and experience, ready to mount a charge for their maiden World Cup triumph. 

Feature picture courtesy: AFP