Underdone Black Caps facing 'one of the best' bowling attacks

Publish Date
Saturday, 8 June 2024, 9:47AM

By Kris Shannon

There is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Black Caps as they belatedly kick off their T20 World Cup.

But skipper Kane Williamson is sure of one thing – today’s opposition Afghanistan boast one of the best bowling attacks at the tournament.

That declaration would hardly ease any nerves felt by Kiwi cricket fans, concerned their underdone side could become the next big name beaten at an unpredictable event in a volatile format.

New Zealand dropping their opener in Guyana, which kicks off at 11.30am, won’t be nearly as seismic an upset as the United States tipping over Pakistan on Friday, not when the ever-improving Afghanistan have already earned their reputation as a tricky opponent.

Still with comparatively limited exposure in international cricket, they collected the scalps of England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka at last year’s ODI World Cup, thriving in spinning conditions on the subcontinent.

The Black Caps must avoid being added to that list of victims, given only two nations will progress from a pool also featuring co-hosts the West Indies. But they will have to overcome a number of complicating factors.

Williamson hopes the the team’s 10 days of practice will be adequate to account for a disparity in preparations, with Afghanistan enjoying the luxury of both a warm-up fixture and a 125-run win over Uganda in their first match.

The captain believes his side boasts enough tournament experience to immediately approach top form, despite much of the squad spending the past few months on the sidelines.

And based on what he’s seen from three games at the venue, Williamson is unconcerned about the prospect of the pitch overly suiting Afghanistan’s spinners.

But he did sound one significant warning, knowing well the threat posed by a bowling unit led by the formidable Rashid Khan.

“They have such a skilful team and one of the better bowling attacks in the competition – we’ve seen that in franchise competitions,” Williamson said. “They’re getting better and better, they’re getting more top-level cricket, and we saw at the last World Cup how strong they were in the ODI format.

“They have a number of threats – Rashid’s been around a while now although he’s still a young man. He’s an extremely gifted, world-class player. But there are a number of other players throughout their side that make them an exciting team and a real challenge.”

Legspinner Khan and the offbreak of Mujeeb Ur Rahman combined for only three wickets against Uganda, with left-arm quick Fazalhaq Farooqi snaring 5-9. But even if Williamson had seen the ball move in the air and off what he assessed was a fair wicket, Khan would likely be asking the most probing questions today.

The pair spent several seasons together at Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, before Williamson moved to Gujarat Titans. He was one of several Black Caps to endure long periods of inactivity in the most recent edition, with only Trent Boult, Daryl Mitchell and Rachin Ravindra playing at least 10 games.

Williamson was asked to bat only twice, collecting 27 runs, but the 33-year-old shrugged off any suggestions of frustration, having found different ways to ready himself for the forthcoming World Cup.

“That’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “I’ve been involved in a few IPLs now – sometimes you play more and sometimes you play less. The balance of the overseas players has a lot to do with that.

“I put quite a bit of time into some of the fitness side of things and other parts of your game. There’s so many opportunities over there, there’s a lot of resources and practice as well, so it’s having that focus.”

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you