The world is still reeling from the recent retirement of New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum. One reckons, it will take time to overcome the sad vacuum this leaves in Kiwi cricket. McCullum wasn’t just an extraordinary player, he was a dashing one. In an era where grace and class are regarded as bygone products bearing a tint of nostalgia, McCullum was responsible for giving modern cricket a brute reformation thanks to his exploits with the bat. Together with giants like Sehwag, Jayasuriya, Hayden and Gayle, the latter still around for possibly an year or two, the former Kiwi captain redefined the art of ‘carefree hitting’ from the word go.
But, amidst cricket’s changing tide where the likes of Kohli and Rahane, Angelo Mathews and Siriwardene, Morkel, Maxwell, Warner, Pollard and their likes are taking over centre-stage, you’ve got to sit back and take cognizance of Brendon McCullum’s New Zealand side. He has left behind a legacy that won’t call out to the McCullum shadow or would lament his exit for the Kiwis are a side that opponents wouldn’t dare to take lightly.
You wouldn’t be doing great service to your cricketing acumen to still regard the Kiwis as the ‘black sheep’ of international cricket. Yes, the Vettori’s, Tuffy’s and Mills are a thing of the past, but boy you’ve got one hell of a unit there considering the might of the combined Kiwi talent.
Young, daring and filled with a newfound purpose, to live up to the promise of recently retired McCullum’s call to take their game to new highs, New Zealand are the side to beat, this year and going forward. And they truly indicated class and substance by virtue of some really good performances in the last couple of years, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 notwithstanding.
Here’s a look at the 6 promising Kiwi players to watch out for in the post Brendon McCullum era
New Zealand’s T20 and ODI cricketer of the year (2015), Martin Guptill’s rise to the forefront of the Kiwi batting is stuff of legends. He wasn’t ever considered dangerous, truth be told. Yes, he did face the Steyn’s and Morkel’s and B.Kumar’s and Jerome Taylor’s of the world with aplomb in his nascent years as a young Kiwi cricketer, but he wasn’t particularly marked for doing the unthinkable.
But, come Cricket’s grandest stage and this Auckland lad rose to glory. Breaking Chris Gayle’s personal best score of 215 (scored against a wayward Zimbabwe; his only double ton in ODI’), Martin Guptill chose no one else but Gayle’s West Indies to go past the mighty Jamaican’s score. Hammering Suleiman Benn and Jason Holder, Guptill’s record breaking 237 not out primed the Kiwis to surge ahead to the last leg of the tournament. And, this was just the beginning.
Consistent batting in all forms of the game, particularly the shortest version would ensure that Guptill would continue to strike at a rate of 90 and above, a stellar rate in T20s. With 13 hundreds from both tests and ODI’s, Guptill who isn’t even 30 yet is just beginning to cut loose.
In the world of international sport, chances are that you may have heard the name of Bolt, Ussain Bolt. But, that’s not the only lightening “bolt” out there. New Zealand’s quickest fast bowler, 26 year of Trent Boult is spearheading an interesting era of Kiwi pace bowling.
Tall, agile and a really quick athlete, Boult’s left arm yorkers, bouncers and even those disguised slower ones spell a batsman’s doom under conditions where the concentration of the willower takes a “walk out of the park”, leaving the timbre disturbed.
The Rotorua born fast bowler measures a miserly 22 in limited over cricket, where his 59 wickets from 32 matches stack up the odds against the batsmen in front. In tests, Boult’s nagging pace and accuracy has earned him 147 wickets from just 39 tests, with 5 five wicket halls and 1 ten wicket hall. That’s quite a statistic for a man who has hardly broken sweat in international cricket.
Born in Johannesburg, shuttling between England and New Zealand and playing for the latter, 36 year old Grant Elliot’s biggest cricketing moment came last year in the important semi-final encounter of the ICC Cricket. Facing South Africa in a do or die can never be easy running for a cricketing side even if you are Australia, New Zealand’s arch rivals. But, how could have the Kiwis lagged behind?
Chasing a top notch score of 282, the rain-affected game was revised by the Duckworth Lewis system and owned, quite literally by big hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Grant Elliot. Elliot’s 84 off 73 featured some memorable blows to all sides of the Eden Park (at Auckland) and, the ceremonious celebration marked by a six off Dale Steyn was followed by a friendly shake of the hand between the Protean pace supremo and the man of the moment: Grant Elliot.
Inspiring, cheerful and ever smiling, Grant Elliot isn’t at the peak of his youth and with a few years of cricket left in his agile frame, you never know how high this Kiwi could fly in the times to come.
There are fast bowlers, pacers with brute force and rabid agility and then there are the likes of Tim Southee. The 1.91 m tall lad from New Zealand is perhaps the most underrated fast bowler of his time but, must it be said, a damn good one.
The 27 year old has already collected over 300 wickets from both forms of the game in international cricket and is at the peak of his fitness. On the 22 yards, he extracts pace and bounce, swing and movement off the seam and outside the pitch, Southee, transforms into an intense fielder with a strong arm in the outfield.
A Royal candidate of the Rajasthan Royals, the Whangarei born Kiwi has also represented Essex and Northern Districts.
Quite comfortably, the mightiest hitter of the white ball, after Gayle and DeVilliers, Corey Anderson, New Zealand’s best all rounder is not only an effective left arm medium pacer but a hard-hitting batsman who gorges on meaty blows on all sides of the park, regardless of the length of the ground.
He is an impact player who makes it count in limited over Cricket and in the shortest format, he would leave no stone unturned to send the best of the bowlers outside the park.
The Christchurch born 25 year old has only just arrived on the international circuit but with 2 hundreds, 8 fifties and a strike rate that’s on the heavier side of 100 in limited over cricket, Anderson, one is sure is hiding plenty of aces up his sleeve. Though he would love to improve his bowling average in tests, his promising disguised slower ones and yorkers have plenty of surprises for the batsmen in front.
With at least 10 years of cricket left in those muscled shoulders and strong arms, Corey Anderson is calling out to world’s most formidable challengers to face him and thus, the Kiwis.
If you are a Virat Kohli fan and a lover of the stuff that AB enthralls the lover of the game with, then perhaps you may also want to consider Kane and able; the ever mighty Williamson.
A toughie who doesn’t let his wicket away easily, Kane Williamson is unarguably the best Kiwi batsman of his generation and quite comfortably among the finest in the world at the moment.
Gifted with an intelligent mind to decode the situation of the game, this balanced and confident right hander can do both- fluently build an inning on the merit of concentration and, defend and withstand storms emanated from the bowler’s fury.
The batsman with the maximum aggregation of runs in 2015 (tests), he was ICC’s top pick of the last year. Nearing 8000 international runs, the 25 year old has already stroked 20 hundreds and 41 fifties. A highest test score of 242(not out) only affirms the grit in Kane’s willow.