From mountain climbing to sailing New Zealanders have produced a fair share of achievers in sports and the Black caps are no exception. Although they have yet to dominate their arch rivals Australia anyone would certainly praise their capacity to win against impossible odds.
Only a few months ago The Black Caps cruised to victory in the NatWest ODI tri-series against England and the West Indies. Daniel Vettori was named Man of the Match for his bowling effort and Stephen Fleming became Man of the Series. That win was the Black Caps' 13th out of 15 one-day international matches in a year. Wins like these that have propelled them to the upper echelons of international cricket.
Bracewell, their coach, has done a marvelous job and without a doubt is a key ingredient of their success. Deftly maneuvering around all their legendary injury problems he still manages to produce a team of 11 that are respected by other teams. It is done with great difficulty as a place with the Black caps is sheer cut throat competition. Typically jostling for places in the middle order were Astle, Styris and McMillan. Whereas in the more intense pace attack, Bond, Chris Martin, Daryl Tuffey and Kyle Mills eyed for just two positions. As we recently witnessed with the exit of Mcmillan, a place in the Black caps is based on performance and nothing but performance.
Even though we breath in relief with news that the pace of Shane Bond and the antics of legendary Cairns will be absent let us not forget that there will be no breathing room with this team as others quickly take up vacancies.
And as they slowly embark on their northward flight to Bangladesh can we sit back in despair at the enormous challenge facing us or fancy a few chances? Here are the first 11 that the Tigers will have to neutralize.
Stephen Fleming (capt) 31 yrs - S Fleming stats from Channel 4
If there is anyone that Habibul Bashar could emulate it is Fleming and especially his art of captaincy. Apart from captaincy, Fleming has actually struggled to raise his batting and during his early years had consistently failed to translate those fifties to greater figures. Since then he has matured. To the immense benefit of his team he has reengineered his batting methods so that now he is seen as a solid anchor of the batting line up. Undoubtedly, his service for both Yorkshire and Middlesex county teams has helped a lot.
How hard to cut through the Kiwis?
Left-handers are a delight to watch with their elegant and flawless timing. Being no exception, Fleming plays shots to every point in the field and like any good left-hander puts away any ball in the leg side or balls bowled straight. In particular, his offside strokes are a spectacle. During the home series with South Africa he played some beautiful cuts standing on the back foot and controlling waist-high deliveries. While enjoying playing free-flowing cover drives he combines fluidity with a shot selection that is one of the most intuitive in international cricket.
His 134 not out against South Africa during the 2003 World cup cemented his reputation as a player comfortable with One day games. But not only that, his 274 not out against Sri Lanka confirmed that he had the mental ability to negotiate the most difficult conditions, to take on the best spinners (Murali) and then to lead his team to victory. Probably the most valuable lesson from Fleming is "sticking to the game plan". That 274, with only 26 runs from a triple century, also spoke volumes about Fleming's unselfishness.
Initially Fleming struggled against off spin bowling but as with his game generally, he has made huge strides in that area in recent years. With Fleming now well and truly set at No 1 in the ODI side, the Black Caps have the opportunity to build a world-beating opening duo if Nathan Astle can remain fit. If not, Fleming has demonstrated this last season that he is equally adept in the role of the "dasher". For the test series, Bracewell has indicated that Fleming will return to his favoured No 3 spot after opening in England.
It is no surprise that he is the most successful Kiwi captain and under him his side has beaten most of the test nations. If it was Streak or Inzamam that was in the way of the tigers than it will be Fleming next month. For that reason, whether we are batting or fielding, Bangladesh's main plan should be to read his game plan. And then when batting capture his wicket and when fielding derail the bowling attack. Certainly, one of the most difficult challenges for our batsmen will be to come to grips with the superb field placement that he is exceptionally capable of conjuring up.
Mark Richardson 34 yrs - M Richardson stats from Channel 4
Another of those dangerous left handed batsmen to keep an eye on. If it is any of the Kiwis that will be enjoying his trip to Bangladesh it is Richardson. One the most prolific batsmen during our last encounter with the Black caps, he was not bothered by the deliveries of Manjural, Rafique or Mashrafee. It is no surprise that he returns to haunt us again.
Although starting his career as a spin bowler in 1990 it is his batting as an opener that has been of value to his country. He has made the best bowling attacks of the world look mediocre by his tenacity and patience. In short, he likes to hang around in the crease for a long time. The best that Bangladesh should do is to respond in kind and capture his wicket quickly.
Since his debut in September 2000 he has accumulated an impressive 18 scores above fifty from 41 innings. Although not as illustrious as other international cricketers he is good value for money. His consistency in delivering runs and persistency is a crucial factor keeping him at the opening slot. With an average of 48.73 at test level, he will open for the tests and leave his skipper to concentrate on run getting for the ODI games.
Like many Kiwi players he has had to work hard for a place and Richardson, being one of the senior figures, will exercise effort and self-discipline with a typical "do or die" attitude, as if it is the last game. Although he may not possess the vast array of shots, but he knows his limits and where his off-stump is, which is an admired quality.
After a failed venture into the ODI side in 2002, Richardson has survived on a handful of tests each season. On top of that after an extremely disappointing series against South Africa in March, some felt Richardson's bubble had burst but his domination of the Harmison-led English attack this winter has opened a fresh chapter. There is no doubt his focus and hunger for big scores will be one of the Tiger's biggest problems. They could help themselves though by giving him a solid examination with the short balls as he has shown weaknesses with it recently.
Michael Papps 25 yrs - substitute keeper - M Papps stats from Channel 4
Making steady progress in the domestic league, the right-handed Michael Papps became the opening partner for Fleming in the one-day series against South Africa in 2003-04. Short in stature, Papps impressed with his ability to manipulate the bowlers and on the back of his ODI performance he was recruited for Test series. He made 59 on his debut, but has struggled since then. Injuries to his fellow teammate McMillan and the selector's trust ensured that he continued to bat for the second test at Headingley in 2004. Headingley is a difficult pitch to score over 50 and his splendid 86 with a broken finger, was an admirable feat.
Bracewell has said that Papps will open with Richardson in the test series. From the Black caps point of view this is a must as both Papps and Richardson have the ability to form solid partnership for the seasons to come. Promoting Fleming, as has happened in England, to sort out a middle order logjam is not the solution. Papps is too good a player to leave out of the team, as the Tigers will see in Bangladesh.
Scott Styris 29yrs - S Styris stats from Channel 4
With over a decade of domestic experience and a few ODI matches under his belt Scott has managed to make use of every test call up. Few batsmen can claim to score a test century but Styris did just that with style in 2002 on debut against West Indies. Against West Indies he hauled 6-25 and got past 50 in the same ODI match making him a very useful allrounder. Entering the international cricket scene late in his career he still has a lot to offer but coming in at no. 4 he will have a chance to play an anchor role. Once a late order slogger, he can increase the run rate when needed and can show his real mettle by aggressively attacking all kinds of bowling attacks as he showed with his superb 141 off just 125 balls against Sri Lanka during the 2003 World Cup. He is a very handy and often under-utilised bowler as well.
Styris has easily been the Black Caps most improved player over the last 18 months. His elevation to No 4 in both forms of the game was a little surprising but he has consistently delivered. He even made a ton batting at No 3 in India this time last year. Struggling early on in England he came through later on in the series with a magnificent century at Trent Bridge. However, his brutal 170 at Auckland last season, when he smashed the South Africans to all parts would be his career highlight to date.
Nathan Astle 33yrs - N Astle stats from Channel 4
Astle has the lethal reputation of achieving the fastest double century in cricket history. 222 runs were scored off 153 balls in Christchurch a few years back. Anyone capable of that is sure enough not lacking in batting confidence. Remarkably he had started off as a regular staple of the medium pace department but knee injuries has restricted his bowling confidence for now. A safe fielder at 2nd slip, gully, or in the deep.
The medium pace that he has offered is innocuous but with a very desirable economy rate for extended periods, (that has been sorely missed in recent series). The stiff domestic competition in New Zealand has built up his batting prospects and with his debut against West Indies in 1995 he has significantly improved his international batting averages. Since then he has emerged as one of their best batsman with over 5000 runs under his belt.
Like other unorthodox batsman it is his weaknesses for playing cross-batted shots off the front foot that will prove his undoing. It is the same confidence, with one too many ambitious shot off the stumps, where he can get easily bowled. Our spinners, Rafique or Rana, should explore his front foot pulls and cuts because at some point this will provide opportunities for close fielders. Moreover, the medium pacers will need to bowl straight and at a good length to probe his judgment.
Hamish Marshall 25 yrs - H Marshall stats from Channel 4
The coach has openly stated that he wants to probe the capabilities of Marshall. With an eye-opening form in the one-day top cricket, scoring 751 runs at 41.72 in 23 games, including 101 not out against Pakistan, seven half-centuries, have seen him become a permanent face at No.3 in their ODI team. Marshall, considered as a crucial middle order, looks likely to see his next Test match against us after playing South Africa. Although some thought is being given to Jacob Oram moving up to No.6 which could see Astle at No.5 and Marshall carrying the drinks.
The stylish middle-order batsman made his Test debut against South Africa in December 2000. Batting at No. 7, Marshall made an unbeaten 40 and showed great maturity and promise. However, he was not picked again and had to wait for another three years to get his chance when he was called up for the one-day series in Pakistan in 2003-04. In his third game, he scored an impressive 101 not out at Faisalabad, and later scored 64 and 84 to help New Zealand win the home series. Successive wins in one-day series have impressed the selection panel.
Unlike other members of the Black caps Hamish does not have an astounding domestic record to boast about. But he must have some qualities that impressed the coach to try him in place of the experienced McMillan. Although his averages may seem ordinary, he is still an unknown element and a dark horse, as such he could very well spark in the pitches of Bangladesh with both bat and in the field for he is an outstanding fielder too.
Jacob Oram 26yrs - J Oram stats from Channel 4
His exceptional height and athleticism make him one of the upcoming allrounders of the team. Since his debut against Zimbabwe in 2001 and for the past 2 years he has started to establish himself as a batting prospect for his team. Although he has not made significant contributions as his other teammates he has been pivotal as a useful middle order batsman by scoring winning runs in the 2002 second test against India. But after his 5-wicket haul against India, 5/26 in December 2002, his focus has shifted to his bowling capabilities and has added pace in his run up. Although still in the shadows of his fellow paceman Bond he is clearly groomed to be the number 2 bowler of the squad. It is the line and length that defines his bowling and due to a lack of real pace he does fancy the bounce and lift off the pitch. His height does make things easier and has the ability to generate sufficient bounce to bother many fine batsmen. Coupled with a probing line and length he will be a handful for our batsmen.
The New Zealand team is one of the finest fielding outfits out there and is best exemplified by Oram, at gully position, who provides spectacular displays of catches and saves. In terms of match winning fielding he is the "Mohammed Kaif" of New Zealand.
Oram already fills the role vacated by Chris Cairns. Perhaps not quite as lethal with the ball, he already looks a considerably better batsman after scoring his maiden test hundred last season against Pakistan. This would indicate he is good enough to fill the No.6 slot a la Andrew Flintoff allowing the Black Caps to field four specialist bowlers.
Brendan McCullum 23 yrs - B McCullum stats from Channel 4
If there is any chink in the armour it could be their wicketkeeping. Nonetheless, McCollum's glove-work is still good as he is selected for his glove work. But in my opinion, not in the same class as Gilchrist or our own Masud for that matter. McCullum went to the 2003 World Cup as part of the New Zealand squad and played in 7 games. However, he batted only 3 times in those games and scored 36 not out, 1 and 4.
His first game for New Zealand was the 2001/02 VB Series against Australia scoring 5 at the top of the order. At that time, he was picked as a specialist batsman after performing well for his province Otago when a knee injury preventing him from keeping, but in recent caps he has had to perform with the gloves as well.
His unbeaten 36 came against the West Indies after his team had been reduced to 147/6. Then a 41-run partnership with Chris Harris and a 53-run partnership with Andre Adams helped his team to an eventual winning total of 241, providing examples of their deep batting line up.
McCullum graduated to the test side last season for the series against South Africa making a half-century on debut. An extremely confident player, McCullum is still very young and remains a decent prospect for New Zealand. He is more than happy to bat up the order. For some strange reason he batted No. 3 in the second innings of each of the tests in England and falling agonizingly short of a maiden 100 in the second dig at Lords.
Daniel Vettori 25yrs - D Vettori stats from Channel 4
The darling of the fans and at 18 he was the youngest New Zealand player to debut and then became the youngest to take 100 test wickets. At an average of 30.49 he is making steady progress improving his test bowling abilities. He is celebrated as the most promising left arm orthodox spinner who took 12 wickets in a memorable match against their rivals Australia. A lot is demanded from him and the selectors are wary of inflicting a heavy workload on him to avoid injuries (which have plagued him on several occasions). Although he did not take too many wickets since our last encounter with him, in fact he has struggled to take wickets in the longer form of the game, the Bangladesh batsmen still should be wary of him in the friendly pitches of Chittagong.
Spinners would do well to study the success of Daniel Vettori in the one-day game. With confidence he has tested the batsmen by bowling around the wicket. He tries intelligently to vary his flight and torment the batsmen with a fluent run to the wicket and bowls with an inviting loop. The variation that he has developed in flight and an effective arm ball had caused all sorts of problems even for the most competent batsmen. Apart from his bowling he is also an energetic, never-say-die fielder and useful lower-order batting talent who often features as their night watchman as Saqlain Mushtaq did for Pakistan.
James Franklin 23 yrs - J Franklin stats from Channel 4
James Franklin together with Butler, Kyle Mills and Chris Martin are the specialist pacemen in the squad.
After two years off the test scene, Franklin was one of the Medium-Fast bowlers that were brought into the team when injuries struck the top bowlers in England. Although playing 24 ODI he has yet to settle in as a lead strike bowler because of his slow pace. His best figures of 4-26, 20 ODI wickets are largely taken with the aid of swing conditions.
His asset and a worry for Bangladesh will be his role as a useful left handed middle order batsman causing disruption to the bowling attack. In attack dominated by right arm mediums, his leftarmer's slant will be an advantage come selection time.
Paul Wiseman 34 yrs - Wiseman P. stats from Channel 4
Vettori and Wiseman are included in the squad for their main spin strengths. Being the second spinner for New Zealand he will share the burden with Vettori in spin friendly conditions. Wiseman has been around a long time and has bowled usefully on occasions such as against Australia at home in 2000 and in Sri Lanka in 2003. With the right conditions, such as in Sri Lanka in 1998, he performs brilliantly and took 5-82, in that occasion. He has worked hard on his batting and often opens for his province Canterbury in one day matches.
Kyle Mills 25 yrs - K Mills stats from Channel 4
As Bracewell has reiterated, Kyle provides the pace and handiness of a lower order batsman. Debuting in 2001, during the Sharjah trophy against Pakistan, he has featured in many ODI tournaments and has opened the bowling for his country but usually produces economical results. However, in flat pitches he struggles to maintain the economy rate. Last season was a shocker for Mills. Although widely regarded as the Kiwis' death expert, Abdul Razzaq and Shaun Pollock hammered him to all parts, thereby casting doubt on his mental toughness. Being in the shadows of fast bowlers such as Bond, Oram and Butler, have curtailed his presence in the test scene and the occasional injuries has not helped his cause either.
His selection for the test trip is very surprising as was his debut in Trent Bridge, in England. His one-day record is very ordinary with a best of 3-30 wickets against Sri Lanka in Sharjah. In the five home ODIs against South Africa in February he managed just 3 wickets at an average of over 80. After being spanked by the Australians at the ICC Champions Trophy it is bewildering to think that if he is likely to now be the test spearhead. Not a player tipped to have a defining impact on a match but he might extract wickets, especially in closing periods of the games. Batsmen's mistakes and some good line and length will be the main hope for him in the next tour.
Ian Butler 24yrs - I Butler stats from Channel 4
With Bond's future so uncertain, Ian Butler is the new "speed" hope for the Black Caps. Butler made his Test debut in 2002 against England at Christchurch. A young fast bowler that New Zealand has introduced but still is not as fast as Bond. With Oram injured, he was again reintroduced during their series with India in 2003 but did not fare as well. In the next match he managed a 6 for 46 against Pakistan (late 2003). Even if he is considered a replacement it is most likely that he will produce enough lift in the Chittagong pitch to cause potential problems. Furthermore, his special ability of changing the pace of his bowling is also troubling. Butler was a surprise selection for the Nat West series in England but performed extremely well. Not the worst with the bat either.
Chris Martin - C Martin stats from Channel 4
Martin was inserted into the side with the 00/01 tour of South Africa, amidst a selection crisis when New Zealand bowlers were getting injured consistently. Nevertheless, he has the ability to bowl wicket-taking balls and extract seam and movement from most surfaces. He can bowl at a reasonable pace and for long spells. He has returned to the test squad on the back of his best Test figures of (6-76) against South Africa in Auckland despite injuries and inconsistency that have obstructed his development within the New Zealand team. Plucked from domestic cricket last season to play in the second test against South Africa at Eden Park, Martin's career has turned the corner. His match winning effort saw him selected for the tour of England. Although he was largely disappointing on supposedly helpful wickets, he did enough to secure a place for the trip to Bangladesh.
Useful insights from Andrew McLean of www.cricketclub.co.nz
Channel 4 sports(UK) cricket stats
The author is a moderator of banglacricket forum and goes by the nick "oracle" - editors