Taylor backs Williamson and McKay to deliver
Ross Taylor, the New Zealand captain, is happy his team will get to play in all three countries hosting the World Cup over the next few months, calling the line-up of matches the "ideal preparation" for the showpiece tournament. New Zealand haven't played in the subcontinent since a short tri-series in Sri Lanka last year, but have a full series against India and five one-dayers against Bangladesh before the World Cup.
"Coming from New Zealand, the pitches are going to play differently but the conditions that we have here and in India and in Bangladesh will be similar to what we are going to experience in the World Cup," Taylor said at a press conference to unveil the tri-series trophy. "So this experience is going to be valuable for the team and for the youngsters leading in to the selection for the World Cup."
He was also not too concerned about the absent senior players since it will give New Zealand's bench strength a thorough test. "It's good, it gives some other players an opportunity and some youngsters the chance to play in the subcontinent as well," he said. "If we can have a squad of 20-odd to pick from and push each other, I think it will augur well for the upcoming months and for the World Cup."
Taylor had plenty of praise for two of the newcomers, batsman Kane Williamson and 30-year-old Wellington fast bowler Andy McKay. Williamson had a terrific domestic season in 2008-09, with a country-high 621 runs at 77.62 in the one-day competition, which has already led to a central contract. "Kane has been a player that has been earmarked to play for New Zealand for a long time," Taylor said. "He's only just turned 20, he's an exciting raw talent and he is a pretty level-headed guy. He will be making his debut tomorrow, hopefully he will make the most if it. I am excited for him."
McKay has already made his debut earlier this year and was rated by regular New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori as someone whose pace was "on a par with Shane Bond". A strong start to his international career was quickly followed by a stress fracture which ruled him out for three months. "Andy McKay is our fastest bowler in the squad and after losing Shane Bond through retirement," Taylor said, "he is going to become a big part of our side and our make-up."
The depleted New Zealand outfit is viewed as the weakest of three teams in the tournament, but Taylor hoped his side's preparation for the competition would help them perform. "We have come here to win, we won our warm-up games and probably have got an edge over them (India and Sri Lanka) in playing the competition," he said. "We know it's going to be tough but we are looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully, we can put some performances on the board."
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo