New Zealand have continually punched above their weight under the captaincy of Kane Williamson, which culminated in their monumental achievement to win the inaugural World Test Championship over India at the Rose Bowl.
For a team that had struggled in finals before, notably losing the World Cup final to England in devastating circumstances, the Black Caps were on point to ease their way to an eight-wicket triumph over Virat Kohli’s men. It was a vital breakthrough on the world stage after losing multiple finals. However, the pressure to capitalise on their window of opportunity remains paramount for New Zealand given the impressive talent of their squad, but also the ages of their key players.
By looking at betting sites – Oddschecker, for example, shows odds of 13/2 to 7/1 for New Zealand to win the World T20 in India in 2022, and similar prices for the 50-over World Cup in the same location – The Black Caps are often amongst the favourites for major tournaments. They have a talented team that can challenge in all conditions, but there is now the element of pressure to live up to expectations and win as much as they can with a golden generation of players in place.
Williamson is not going anywhere at the age of 31, but the recent decline of Steve Smith in limited-overs cricket has shown that even the best in the game are not impervious to peaks and troughs of playing at the highest level.
New Zealand have lost a valuable piece of their batting ranks following the retirement of Ross Taylor. The 38-year-old had been an outstanding contributor in the middle order, and will not be easily replaced in all formats. On the other hand, there were similar fears about the loss of Brendon McCullum, but first BJ Watling then Tom Blundell, Tom Latham, Finn Allen and Tim Seifert have all filled the void.
The production lines of talent have remained admirably strong for a small nation, but whether this can be sustained in the long term is debatable. As a result, there is pressure on Mark Chapman, Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips to prove that the batting ranks can remain potent even with the loss of Taylor.
Both Phillips and Mitchell struggled under the pressure in the final of the World T20 against Australia, although the latter did produce a remarkable knock against England in the semi-finals, highlighting the ups and downs of T20 cricket.
It is not only the batting ranks where there may be cause for concern after 2023. Both Tim Southee and Trent Boult have formed one of the best new-ball partnerships in world cricket over the last decade in all formats. However, both bowlers will be either entering or nearing their mid-30s after the upcoming World T20 and the World Cup.
Kyle Jamieson’s rise has been welcome to ease the burden on the veteran seamers. But their presence is not just felt with ball in hand as Southee and Boult have also provided valuable tactical and leadership support to Williamson in the field.
The options behind the duo, including Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson, are roughly the same age, which means that the group is growing older together rather than having a succession plan in place. Therefore, they have the quality to make a run now, but their window of opportunity may be closing. The pressure in India will therefore be all the greater.
It will be interesting to see how Williamson and his team handle the occasion after yet another near-miss against Australia in Dubai last year. New Zealand always seem to be the bridesmaids in white ball competitions. It’s about time they lifted some silverware.