Loyalty aside, it's unrealistic to expect too much

Last updated 09:46 20/09/2012

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History suggests I should feel otherwise but for some reason almost every time the Black Caps play I have this sense of optimism they will be winners.

Although they are horribly inconsistent and sit firmly among the middle tier of international cricket playing nations, they always have two or three world-class players who, on their day, have the ability to single-handedly win any game. That, combined with the way they relish underdog status and their typically Kiwi knack for producing upsets, often keeps me up all hours.

That said, I have to admit I am finding it tough to see our New Zealand cricketers being serious contenders for the World Twenty20 crown in Sri Lanka over the next three weeks. Winning a tournament like that requires a consistency of performance and all-round strength the Black Caps have rarely found and don't currently have. We have advanced past preliminary pool play in all three past World T20 tournaments, reaching the semifinals in 2007 and making it as far as the super-eight stage in 2009 and 2010.

This time around, though, it will take a good effort to get past pool play.

Despite a one-run win over India, in India last week, many of the Black Caps players are in typically patchy limited-overs form and prior to playing in India they were hammered by the West Indies 2-0 in a T20 series and 4-1 in a one-day series. On top of that, New Zealand are set to face two tricky opponents in pool play on a surface that will suit them more than it will the Black Caps.

Tomorrow night we open our campaign against Bangladesh.

While they were eliminated at the initial group stage in 2009 and 2010, Bangladesh are a rising force in world cricket and, led by one of the world's top all-rounders in Shakib Al Hassan, have a side more than capable of knocking over New Zealand.

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson has said they are expecting up to 16 of the 20 overs they face in this match to be spin and we all know how Kiwi batsmen always struggle against spin.

Furthermore, the Sri Lankan pitches and conditions are not too dissimilar to those found in Bangladesh and this time two years ago the Black Caps were beaten 4-0 in a one-day series in Bangladesh.

New Zealand's other pool play rival is Pakistan and although they are far from the world force in cricket they once were, the Pakistanis love the T20 format and have a strong track record at this tournament.

Like Bangladesh, Pakistan have numerous spin bowling options for the Black Caps batsmen to contend with, not to mention pace bowler Umar Gul, the leading wicket-taker at the World T20 in 2007 and 2009. In the batting stakes, names like Shahid Afridi, Kamran and Umar Akmal, and Shoaib Malik give New Zealand's bowlers plenty of food for thought.

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If the Black Caps do manage to get through pool play, they will face three more tough matches as part of the super eight. At least two wins will be required there to get through to the semifinals.

As evidenced by their 2007 performance, that scenario is not completely out of the question.

However, based on form and the Sri Lankan conditions it would be wrong to be confident this 15-man Black Caps squad can match their 2007 counterparts.

With batsmen like Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson, and a well-balanced bowling attack including Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee and Nathan McCullum, we have the makings of a team capable of reaching the business end of this tournament. It all comes down to consistency, though, and I for one haven't set my expectations too high.

- The Marlborough Express

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