T20 World Cup 2024 – Gary Stead leaning on ‘experience’ of NZ squad in absence of official warm-ups

New Zealand are banking on mixed fortunes from the IPL, their recent tour of Pakistan and experience of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) to ensure they are prepared for their T20 World Cup campaign in the absence of official warm-up matches.

Warm-up matches were offered by ICC, but amid the logistical challenges of getting the entire squad together in the Caribbean – they will arrive in three batches between May 23 and June 1, the latter being any players involved in the IPL finals – and the proposed location of warm-up fixtures, New Zealand opted not to have them and instead use extra training sessions ahead of their opening group match against Afghanistan on June 7.

“West Indies is a tough place to get to for a start, so it’s not easy to get everyone to Trinidad and Tobago at the same time,” head coach Gary Stead said. “For us, we don’t have warm-up games. There’s a number of guys who have been in the IPL for the last two months and we’ve also recently come off the tour to Pakistan.

“There’s a lot of experience in the group who have played in the CPL before, so we’ll be leaning on those guys and making sure the trainings we get prior to the first game puts us in a position of where we want to be.”

Nine of the squad have been at the IPL (Devon Conway was ruled out of his Chennai Super Kings stint due to injury but has been training with the franchise) while others were involved in the five-match T20I tour of Pakistan.

However, in India the amount of match time has varied considerably for key players: Glenn Phillips hasn’t featured at all for Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mitchell Santner has played just twice for CSK, Matt Henry three times for Lucknow Super Giants, Lockie Ferguson five times for Royal Challengers Bengaluru and captain Kane Williamson just twice for Gujarat Titans.

At the other end of the scale, Daryl Mitchell has made 12 appearances for CSK and Rachin Ravindra nine for the same team while Trent Boult has been a regular fixture for Rajasthan Royals. With the bat, only Mitchell has had a tournament that could be considered something of a success with 314 runs at a strike rate of 144.70. Ravindra has made 161 runs at 17.88 and a strike rate of 176.08, having faded following a promising start. With the ball, Boult has taken 12 wickets with an economy of 8.42.*

Devon Conway and Finn Allen fitness

Conway and Finn Allen, who are the first-choice opening pair for New Zealand, have not played since February due to thumb and back injuries respectively. Stead said that Allen was still experiencing a little bit of pain and the intensity of his training would be increased during the team camp in Mount Maunganui. Conway, meanwhile, will be assessed by the medical team when he returns from India next week. “[He] is tracking nicely,” Stead said. “He’s been wicketkeeping and batting in the nets on a regular basis.”

Tim Southee is another who won’t have played a game since the New Zealand season finished having been left out of the Pakistan tour to focus on strength and conditioning.

Stead, however, remained confident in preparations ahead of facing Afghanistan. “We’ve only got two players who haven’t been to a T20 World Cup that are in this squad,” he said. “That shows our group is experienced and they can lean back on those past experiences.”

The players who are training in New Zealand have been utilising a variety of surfaces to try and replicate what could be on offer in Guyana and Trinidad where they play their group matches. Stead believed surfaces could start out conducive to higher scores before tiring depending on how many times they are used.

New Zealand’s tough group

On paper, New Zealand appear to have one of the tougher routes to the Super Eights having been grouped with Afghanistan, whose spinners could enjoy conditions, and hosts West Indies meaning at least one of those three nations won’t progress. They also face Uganda and Papua New Guinea in the first round.

“Certainly looking forward to the challenge ahead and also the unknown of some of these new teams as well, the difference they might bring that we have to be really complete with our planning,” Stead said.

*IPL stats as of May 15

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