Bowling the sticking point for NZ
OverviewNew Zealand are Twenty20 cricket's Even Stevens. This year, they have won four T20 internationals and lost four. Their record at the World T20 is eight wins and eight losses. Overall in the shortest format they have won 25 and lost 25. It is a respectable enough record for a country whose talent pool is not the deepest. But the thing about breaking even is that while you don't go bust, nor do you reap any kind of profit. And that's the situation New Zealand find themselves in at this year's World T20. It might be a case of stating the obvious, but if New Zealand want to add another major piece of silverware to sit alongside the 2000 ICC Knockout Trophy, they must find a way to win more than they lose. Does that mean taking more risks? Perhaps. Whatever the case, there is enough individual talent in their batting line-up to suggest that they can post some decent totals in this format. Remarkable as it may seem, New Zealand are the only team with two of the top five batsmen in the ICC's T20 rankings: Brendon McCullum at No. 1 and Martin Guptill at No. 5. And only Australia have hit more sixes in T20 history than New Zealand. The challenge is to turn those figures into something tangible.
Finding a way to bowl teams out cheaply could be New Zealand's problem. In the past three years they have conceded three 200-plus totals, the same as India, while no other country has conceded that many more than once. It will help that Daniel Vettori has come out of retirement from T20 internationals for this tournament. His career economy rate of 5.50 is outstanding; among players in this tournament only Vettori and Ajantha Mendis have sustained such a low economy rate for any length of time. He and Nathan McCullum, who is fifth on the ICC's rankings for T20 international bowlers, will form a tricky spin duo and should ease the burden on the seam attack. But the fast men cannot afford to leak too many runs, because to have any chance of reaching the final stages of the World T20, New Zealand need all parts of their game firing simultaneously.
Key PlayerIt's no surprise that Brendon McCullum is the No. 1-ranked T20 international batsman in the world. He has scored more T20 international runs than any other player, he has passed fifty more times than anyone else, hit the most sixes and struck the most fours. In any team he would be the most important player; in a side like New Zealand, even more so. His ability to clear the boundary, and to sustain that throughout an innings, will go a long way to determining how far New Zealand can go in this tournament.
Surprise packageAt the last World T20, James Franklin was not considered good enough to earn a place in New Zealand's squad, and he promptly went away and reinvented himself as an excellent T20 batsman, sometimes as an opener and sometimes in the middle order. Only Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor and Scott Styris have scored more T20 runs among New Zealanders than Franklin, who has enjoyed playing in the subcontinent during his time with the Mumbai Indians in the IPL. He will also provide a useful bowling option if New Zealand go in to matches with a spin-heavy attack.
WeaknessThere is firepower in New Zealand's batting, but they must find a way to restrict their opponents when bowling. The problem is their fast men. Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Doug Bracewell and Franklin all have T20 career economy rates of more than eight an over. The only seamer in the squad with a figure below that is Jacob Oram. His economy rate is 7.99. Vettori and Nathan McCullum can only do so much.
World T20 historyNew Zealand reached the semi-finals of the inaugural World T20, losing to Pakistan, but they didn't make it past the Super Eights in 2009 or 2010. Their win-loss record at the World T20 is eight wins and eight losses.
Recent formNew Zealand's tendency to break even has continued this year, as they have won four T20s and lost four. They beat Zimbabwe 2-0, suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of South Africa, lost 2-0 to West Indies in Florida and then beat India 1-0.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here