Black Caps strive to surprise in T20 World Cup

ON TOP: Brendon McCullum is No 1 in the world T20 batting rankings.
ON TOP: Brendon McCullum is No 1 in the world T20 batting rankings.

If the Black Caps want to carve their own slice of international Twenty20 history over the next two weeks, hunger will need to be the name of the game.

New Zealand enter their fourth ICC T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka with little real previous success in the tournament.

While they have always emerged from knockout pool play, the Black Caps have made just one semifinal, in 2009, and built a seven win-nine loss record in the tournament.

Yet with a team who look promising on paper, this trend could change in Sri Lanka.

Explosive opener Brendon McCullum sits atop the world international T20 batting rankings, with Martin Guptill fifth.

The team's bowling stocks look strong, too - with Kyle Mills, Tim Southee and Nathan McCullum in decent form.

Round robin play will pit the Black Caps against Bangladesh (on Friday) and Pakistan (Sunday), and they need at least one victory to ensure passage through to the Super Eight pool round.

Being tactically "proactive" in their warm-up games against Australia, who they played in Colombo last night, and South Africa, will lay a good base for the team, McCullum said.

"The teams we're playing in the competition are going to be a lot different to the two warm-up games against Australia and South Africa," he said.

"But I still think, whilst it would be nice to try different combinations and try a few of your tactical elements in those games, I still think it's about being able to be proactively mixed in your tactics and stay in front of the opposition.

"That's what I think we should be trying to achieve in these games. It gives us a great opportunity - two very good teams - and they'll put us under pressure many times."

New Zealand have only once played Bangladesh in the shortest form of the game, in Hamilton in February 2010. The Black Caps ran riot on that occasion, winning by 10 wickets after Daniel Vettori claimed an astonishing three for six off his four overs while McCullum clobbered 56 not out.

The New Zealanders have beaten Pakistan three times and lost to them on five occasions.

McCullum is confident they can step up to the mark in Sri Lanka, dominate the key moments and find themselves at "the business end" of the tournament. "That's obviously what the desire is. First and foremost we've got a couple of big games - obviously two warm-up games - but then we've got two big games against Pakistan and Bangladesh as well.

"You've got to win them before you can progress any further, so our focus will be on those ones once the time comes."

Neither McCullum nor Mills played against Australia last night, after a horrific collision last week against India.

Both are being closely monitored and could feature against South Africa on Monday.

Sunday Star Times