Are New Zealand the World Cup's best bowling attack?

Vettori: Would like to see Nicholls in the line-up (3:29)

Daniel Vettori also praises Lockie Ferguson's performance in the World Cup saying the team can trust him to pick up wickets (3:29)

Winks cannot be quoted. Matt Henry knows that. You can't quote a wink. Just can't. It is the ICC mixed media zone where you have two players talk slightly less formally to the press than in the official press conference. There is no video camera on either.

Henry is asked if he feels New Zealand have the best attack - not a popular opinion, admittedly - in the tournament. They have the best average (22 per wicket), the best strike rate (28.9 balls for a wicket) and the best economy rate (4.56 per over) in this World Cup after all. "Well," says Henry. Imagine that said in all caps.

And then he leaves it alone like one of those exaggerated Courtney Walsh leaves. "I think obviously every ground we will be faced with different challenges," he says. "It is about making sure we adapt to every surface we play on. I think every game has been a little bit different, and we have had to attack a little bit differently."

"Hey Matt, but you didn't answer the question," Henry is told.

And then he winks, and looks away to another journalist. Make what you will.

Winks cannot be quoted.

ALSO READ: Why doesn't Trent Boult get his due when talking about the world's best?

These numbers have to be put in context first of all. New Zealand are aware of that. Their match against India was washed out without even the toss, and they are yet to play England and Australia. Or West Indies for that matter. They bullied Sri Lanka on a fresh surface, and they have had two surfaces - against Bangladesh and South Africa - where they could bowl into the wicket and use cutters.

New Zealand will obviously not want to make tall claims before they have actually been tested properly. Yet, if there were to be a debate around the best attack in this tournamen, you can't totally write them off.

In Trent Boult, they have a left-arm quick who will extract every last bit of swing or seam movement available. Henry himself can do that but also bowl into the pitch if required. Lockie Ferguson is among the four or five fastest bowlers in the tournament with the ability to bowl accurate bouncers and yorkers. Mitchell Santner is not the wirstspinner-style wicket-taker you ideally want, but Ferguson has teamed up well with his miserliness by taking more wickets in the middle overs than anyone else. Equally importantly they have two fifth-bowler options in Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham. At a pinch Kane Williamson can bowl.

Pose the question now to Gary Stead, the coach, and he makes the point of helpful conditions first. "I think there are some great bowling attacks in a lot of different teams," he says. "South Africa themselves have a very good bowling attack as well. Whether we are the best, I don't know. We have played on wickets that have probably haven't been really high-scoring all the time. The ones that we have been on to date, they have probably been even slower than what we have expected. The most pleasing thing from my perspective is we have adapted to it. And I mean that augurs well. There is a lot of good conversations going on."

ALSO READ: Mitchell Santner, the X-factor is in his instincts

Ask Stead to rate the attack in isolation, though, and he is happy to talk them up. "I rate our attack very highly," he says. "I guess I selected them to come here. They are a good balanced team as well. I mean Ish [Sodhi] was considered strongly as well [for the game against South Africa]. What went against him this game was that we still felt it was just a touch soft on the top. Maybe the seam movement was going to be effective. So and Tim's [Southee] back to full fitness and bowling well in the nets but it's been hard as the guys have stood up do far. That's what we can ask of them."

And by no means is Stead satisfied yet. "It was not perfect by any means but I thought we were in the right areas for long periods of time," Stead said of his side's bowling against South Africa. "And I thought most of the time we used the slower balls and balls into the wicket really really well."

One way to judge attacks is also which players they are keeping out. While the form of Sodhi and Southee has not been in that league, they have not been bad bowlers in ODI cricket. It does create headaches for the management, but New Zealand is a squad that understands what is best for the team. Southee and Stead have conversations around it. His experience helps the side a lot on the sidelines.

ALSO READ: Boult and Southee interview - Understanding each other off the field helps us on it

It is also about flexibility and adjusting quickly to the surface you are playing on, and New Zealand have shown for a while they are good at it. They do their homework - talk to curators, talk to players who know the conditions (Jeetan Patel for Edgbaston, for example) - and they quickly communicate among themselves what areas they need to bowl on certain pitches. They don't always follow a set formula.

New Zealand have the depth of an England. Their first two fast bowlers might not be as good as Australia's but they have the balance and the strength to play a trio that beats others. Man to man, India might just put them to shade, though. In the best-case scenario, they go with Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar as opening bowlers and death bowlers, and the two wristspinners as the middle-overs strikers. New Zealand have shown they have been better with the new ball, India at the death. In the middle overs, the wristspinners are ahead of the Santner-Ferguson combine, but de Grandhomme and Neesham are a better fifth-bowler combination than Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav.

It is a shame the two couldn't go head to head when the chance came. Going by how well the two bowling units are going, a future meeting in this World Cup can't be ruled out. Sterner tests are almost here, though. Next up are West Indies who took them to the shredders in the warm-up game. The game will be played at the 350-friendly Old Trafford. Now is the time to justify those numbers at the top.