18 February 2011
New Zealand eye form reversal against Kenya
Struggling New Zealand will be keen to resurrect their fortunes and start their World Cup campaign with a victory against underdogs Kenya on Sunday
Jacob Oram of New Zealand.
The Black Caps go into their tournament opener in Chennai low on confidence, having lost 14 of their last 16 one-day internationals, amid suggestions of trouble brewing among players, coach and selectors.
Their woeful run prompted the cricket board to organise a major reshuffle ahead of the recent Pakistan series with John Wright named as coach and an independent selection panel put in place.
Semi-finalists in two of the three previous World Cups, the Kiwis have had little to cheer about after arriving in the sub-continent.
They scraped to an unconvincing win over lowly Ireland despite scoring 311 before a 117-run thrashing at the hands of India in their two warm-up games.
Ross Taylor, deputising as captain for the injured Daniel Vettori in the India match, accepted that the team needed to lift their game in all the departments.
"Our spinners are not known as big turners," he said. "We yielded big runs to the Indians. We need to find ways to score runs quickly and also find the boundary options. When chasing that big a total, you got to get runs by boundaries. You need to do that otherwise you get eliminated.
Hopefully, we can improve our performance in the World Cup."
Vettori, nursing a hamstring strain, is expected to be fit in time for the day game at the Chidambaram Stadium.
A major headache for the Kiwis has centred around where to play attacking batsman Brendon McCullum. McCullum was promoted as an opener on the tour of India late last year but was shunted up and down the order during the Pakistan series, reflecting an uncertainty in the ranks over his batting position.
As for the player himself, he would rather open the innings and make up for his disappointing run in the past two World Cups where he scored just 152 runs from 10 innings. "The previous two World Cups I played down the order where you've got reasonably limited opportunities to create an impact," said McCullum. "That's why I'm absolutely determined to play a role at the top of the order. Coming to India the best time to bat is when the ball is new."
Kenya have their own issues to deal with, although they must be eyeing their chances of an upset win against their under-achieving rivals.
The Kenyans slipped into oblivion after their surprise semi-final appearance in the 2003 World Cup with the sport at home hit by political intrigue.
During the World League for non-Test playing nations in the Netherlands last year, the team finished last without winning a match.
They were duly drubbed by the West Indies and the Netherlands in their two warm-up games in Colombo, raising doubts about their ability to stretch top-rung teams.
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