“I don’t think New Zealand are favourites”

Hosts Australia meet trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand (NZ) in the first game of the Super 12 stage of the 2022 T20 World Cup on Saturday (22 October).

Kane Williamson and his men are struggling with some injuries and have had to deal with indifferent form ahead of the tournament. However, it is a known fact that at ICC tournaments, the Kiwis tend to do well and get deep into the competition. Notably, they placed second at last year’s T20 World Cup.

Former New Zealand coach Glenn Pocknall has worked with the likes of Finn Allen, Michael Bracewell and Devon Conway since their early days. He knows quite a bit about what they have to offer on the biggest stage.

speaking in one Exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Pocknall opened up New Zealand’s chances of winning its first T20 World Cup title Down Under. He also provided a detailed analysis of the squad.

Excerpts from Glenn Pocknall’s conversation with Sportskeeda about New Zealand’s T20 World Championship chances:

Q: Martin Guptill is arguably one of the best white ballers New Zealand has produced and has some great numbers in T20Is. How do you rate the chances that he will start in the starting XI?

A: Look, it’s a tough decision because Martin Guptill is New Zealand’s top runscorer in this format and a leading player. He will bring a lot of experience with him. But on the other hand, he’s in bad shape, and then you have Finn Allen, who’s young and cheeky and really has nothing to lose.

So it’s a no-brainer that Finn will open in the World Cup. I don’t see Guptill opening unless there are injuries because he hasn’t played like he has in the past.

Q: How well do you think the partnership between Finn Allen and Devon Conway will work for New Zealand? Both were also your former students.

A: Finn Allen has the ability to hit ball one boundaries. That will really complement Devon Conway up front, with Kane Williamson and Glenn Phillips completing a good package.

Conway has the ability to hit boundaries right away, but he can also bat 70-80 percent of the innings and keep the team together. It is gratifying to see them (Finn and Conway) take what they have achieved under my coaching in Wellington to an international level.

Cracking sound from the bat. Devon Conway plays really well!

Q: Kane Williamson has a good half century behind him in the Tri-Series Final against Pakistan. However, his hit rate has been below the scanner for quite some time. What role do you see for the New Zealand skipper?

A: Kane Williamson is coming in at the right time with a 50-fold win over Pakistan in the Tri-Series Finals. Although his batting average hasn’t been as good as in the past, people need to remember that they need to follow Phillips and Daryl Mitchell.

Then you get such [Jimmy] Neesham and [Michael] Bracewell, who are clear border crossers at death. There’s Williamson and [Devon] Conway have the freedom to anchor the innings and step on the gas when needed, which they are very capable of.

Q: Michael Bracewell was also your student in the past. His all-around ability was a breath of fresh air for the New Zealand team. How do you see him as an Impact player?

A: Michael Bracewell’s rise didn’t surprise me considering how hard I saw him work in his early days and how amazing he was. He brings calm to the dressing room.

We saw how he struggled [Mohammad] Rizwan and Babar [Azam], who are ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the world (T20I batters ranking). People say he’s a part-time off-wracker, but I don’t think so. I think he’s a real nutcase and his performances show that

Michael Bracewell in this T20I Tri-Series: 1-0-6-04-0-14-24-0-11-24-0-39-24-0-14-25 matches, 8 wickets, 10.50 average, 4.94 Economy.

Q: Michael Bracewell almost made sure there’s only one spot left for another weirdo alongside Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner. Considering how expensive Sodhi was in the tri-series final, would you play against Santner? Or would you support Sodhi for his wrist twist?

A: Bracewell has done incredibly well in the Tri-Series and immediately gets his name on the team roster as a spinner of choice. While Sodhi can spin the ball a lot more than Santner, he can sometimes hit a few runs.

I would go with Santner because he can bat and that would deepen the New Zealand batting team. Knowing they have Bracewell and Santner in 7th and 8th respectively, the batters can get a little tougher up front.

Q: Trent Boult seems like a safe starter for New Zealand. However, would you rely on Tim Southee’s experience and swing? Or unleash additional pace in the form of Adam Milne and Lockie Ferguson?

A: It will really depend on the conditions. If the ball is likely to swing for the first 2-3 overs, Tim Southee is a safe bet. Otherwise, it’s better to attack at full speed, including Adam Milne and Lockie Ferguson.

Trent Boult is a safe starter but I think coaches will go with their guts. I hope they are given enough information about the conditions and accordingly what might be the best combination.

Q: There are doubts as to whether Ferguson will be fit in time for the opener against Australia. Do you think he’ll be back in the starting XI once he’s fit?

A: It is unclear whether he (Ferguson) will be fit in time for the clash against Australia. I think it will be a touch and go. But I think once he’s fit, he’ll be pushed into the team because he’s got the X-factor. He is quick, accurate and has the ability to take wickets due to his real raw pace.

Q: New Zealand often tends to do well in ICC tournaments when not many give them a chance to get deep into the tournament. What do you think sets the Kiwis apart when it comes to the consistency with which they perform in major tournaments?

A: It (an ICC tournament) is a top event and the New Zealanders have this talent to get up in difficult situations and when there’s something more at stake, like a world tournament.

Because of their laid-back nature, Kiwis don’t really let themselves be influenced to put pressure on them. It’s all about the faith they have.

Even though New Zealand reached the final last year, I don’t think they’re going into the tournament as favourites. India, England and Australia are going into the race as favourites. New Zealand goes under the radar which helps them not to put any pressure on themselves. I think the same will happen in this tournament.

Q: Do you think missing just one ODI World Championship and one T20 World Championship within two years would hurt New Zealand’s morale? Or will they be positive for going so deep into both tournaments?

A: Confidence will definitely be high because they also made it to the final of the ODI World Cup [as] the last T20 world championship.

Sometimes you have to approach the final a few times before you win it. Whatever the players went through, it would certainly have built a lot of resilience and having that experience will be crucial in a KO match.

I hope luck goes to them, which wasn’t the case in pivotal moments in previous tournaments. Hopefully, if the little things go their way, they’ll have a chance to hit that milestone and finally win a world championship.

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