The Kiwis have often gone into World Cups as underdogs, and have ended up exceeding expectations more often than not. Their record in the World Cup speaks for itself -- six semi-final appearances in 10 editions. While they would have been disappointed by the fact that they ended up losing all of those knockouts, the reason for the same can be easily comprehended. Unlike other top sides, New Zealand haven't produced exceptional performers who can turn up the heat in a must-win game. This is perhaps why the Kiwis have never entered the final. With them being the co-hosts this time, New Zealand will be keen to turn the corner.
For a change, and perhaps for the first time in World Cup history, New Zealand would go into the mega event as one of the favourites, alongside Australia and South Africa. New Zealand's run up to the World Cup has been highly impressive, one of the best among all contenders. Over the last two years, New Zealand have tasted success against South Africa, England and Pakistan away from home. That's not all. They even thrashed India, then the number one ODI side, 4-0 in a completely one-sided series at home. Also, unlike in the past, they have some star performers in the side this time.
Brendon McCullum: The New Zealand captain has been part of the international arena for over a decade now. And, although he hasn't always set the scene on fire, in the last two seasons he has definitely performed closer to potential. The responsibility of captaincy seems to hae worked in both his and the team's favour. While McCullum has retained his flamboyance in batting, it has been his consistency that is becoming increasingly impressive. Opening the innings, McCullum will be expected to get the team off to fliers. If he succeeds, New Zealand should do well again.
Tim Southee: When Shane Bond quit international cricket unable to deal with his injury woes, New Zealand's pace attack was rather mediocre. But, the move to turn to a relatively raw Southee has worked in their favour. The fiery paceman is today among the top bowlers in the world. He has the pace to trouble most batsmen, and is among the few faster men, who can bowl the yorker accurately. The Kiwis will depend on him to get the early breakthroughs, apart from wickets at crucial moments in the match.
Corey Anderson: The big-hitting Kiwi's consistency would not bother opponents, but it cannot be denied that on his day, he can be as lethal as any batsman in world cricket. The proof of the same was when Anderson annihilated West Indies with a 36-ball century on New Year in 2014. The record may have been broken by AB de Villiers, but Anderson should remain in the danger book of opponents. He is also a handy left-arm seamer and a safe fielder, increasing his utility in the team.
Ross Taylor: The former Kiwi skipper is a highly versatile ODI bat. He can hold the innings together in case of a crisis, and is also capable of demolishing opponents when the situation demands. Few can forget his game-changing hundred against Pakistan in the 2011 edition. The Kiwis would be looking for more such scintillating efforts from him.
Squad: Brendon McCullum (capt), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Luke Ronchi (wk), Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson
February 14 vs Sri Lanka at Christchurch
February 17 vs Scotland at Dunedin
February 20 vs England at Wellington
February 28 vs Australia at Auckland
March 8 vs Afghanistan at Napier
March 13 vs Bangladesh at Hamilton
--By A Cricket Analyst