For a nation that takes a lot of pride in Rugby, Cricket as a sport has always been rather secondary to the people of New Zealand. But this country has always produced world-class cricketers and teams that constantly punch above their weight to prove the saying that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Often termed as the dark horses in world tournaments, the New Zealand Cricket team aka the Black Caps, have performed extremely well of late especially in ODI and T20 cricket, being to the final of two consecutive 50-over World Cups and in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup in 2016. But it is their meteoric rise in Test cricket that has gone under the radar and the world must know that in the longest format of the game, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Sourav Ganguly is often looked up to in Indian cricket as someone who changed the mindset of Indian cricket and made them believe that they can win against any opposition and current In Indian skipper Virat Kohli’s captaincy and attitude are often compared to that of Ganguly. In New Zealand cricket too, there was a certain Brendon McCullum who changed the face of New Zealand cricket on world stage, instilling fearlessness among the group and leading them by example. The fearlessness of McCullum surely rubbed off on key players in the team like Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, etc. and created a core that promises to dominate Test cricket and even then somehow this team does not get the praise it deserves.
Kane Williamson was the true heir to the captaincy of the Black Caps post the retirement of McCullum and has shown the same aggression in captaincy despite always having a smile on his face. Post-March 2016, New Zealand have played 28 Tests in total both home and away and have incredibly won 16 out of them and losing just 7, boasting the best win-loss ratio among all the Test-playing nations for a period of over 27 months. They are just second behind India in the ICC Test rankings and a lot of credit for that goes to skipper Williamson who always had led by example. In the 27 Tests as New Zealand captain, he has amassed 2177 runs at a staggering average of 58.83, scoring runs all around the world.
Many players have become a core part of this team and helped them raise the bar with every game. While Martin Guptill failed to hold on to his Test spot, Tom Latham has been a Test regular opener and under Williamson’s leadership has amassed 1988 runs in 27 Tests with an impressive average of 48.48. BJ Watling has been another mainstay in the New Zealand Test team ever since McCullum had given up keeping and continues to be one of the best red-ball keepers in the world currently. Under Williamson, he has scored 1366 runs at an average of 48.78 with the highest score of 205 that he scored in the First Test of the ongoing series against England which turned the game on its head and helped New Zealand win the Test.
Having quality all-rounders is a luxury for any team and the presence of players like Mitchell Santner and Colin de Grandhomme have given spectacular balance to the New Zealand core team. Both Santner and de Grandhomme have bloomed as players under Williamson’s captaincy. Santner strung a memorable partnership with Watling to bail New Zealand out of trouble in the first Test against England and in doing so he scored his career-best 126, showing his utility down the order, Having picked 27 wickets in 15 Tests under Williamson, New Zealand seemed to have found an heir to the great Daniel Vettori. de Grandhomme has proved to be the quality seam-bowling all-rounder that New Zealand so desperately needed, scoring 968 runs in 19 Tests at an average of 40.33 and picking up 38 wickets with best figures of 6/41. The presence of these two have often given Williamson the luxury to play either an extra batsman or a bowler based on the conditions.
As far as the pace attack is concerned, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Neil Wagner have been the main trio used by Williamson over a long period of time. Boult has been the go-to bowler for the New Zealand skipper and has picked 103 wickets in 24 Tests under him at an average of 26.02. Southee himself has been the partner in crime sharing the new ball with Boult over the years and has bagged 90 wickets in 20 games under Williamson.
In an era where one-format behemoths (T20 especially) are hailed as superstars of their generation wonder when the non-glamorous likes of BJ Watling and Neil Wagner (and many more Test specialists around the world) will get their due #NZvENG
— Bharat Sundaresan (@beastieboy07) November 25, 2019
Black Caps are producing talented players like Jeet Raval and Ajaz Patel, who are finding their feet in the New Zealand Test team and with the likes of Lockie Ferguson waiting in the wings, the pace bowling department seems to be having great depth as well. Ajaz Patel has played 7 Tests and bagged 22 wickets which included that famous spell of 5/59 which helped New Zealand beat Sri Lanka in their own den. Jeet Raval has also made a case to cement his position at the top of the New Zealand batting order alongside Tom Latham. He has scored 1093 runs in 21 Tests at a good average of 34.15.
The Black Caps continues to punch above their weight and their win against England in the recently concluded first Test is a testimony to their fighting spirit and potential. With a settled core, New Zealand will look to get to the final of the World Test Championship in June 2021 and they have got all the resources to make it possible and rise even further as a Test cricketing nation.