It has been four years since Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand and Australia met in a Test series. A lot has changed since then for both the sides. Under Brendon McCullum, the Kiwis have grown into a consistent outfit across formats, although they still cannot be termed as world beaters. Australia, on the other hand, have been on a rebuilding spree with retirements galore. The last few months itself have seen Michael Clarke, Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris and Shane Watson (from Tests) walk away from the international scene. As such, they would be go into Brisbane with an almost unrecognisable squad.
In spite being the more experienced of the two sides, New Zealand will not go into the Test series against favourites for the Aussies can hold their own even with consistent changes. But, as former opener Matthew Hayden summed it up perfectly, this is New Zealand’s best chance in three decades to get the better of the Australians, even though they will be playing away from home. New Zealand know they have the players to trouble the Australians, but they are not used to playing the big brother in such contests, which is what could be their biggest challenge.
New Zealand must look to play to their strengths, and they should start from Brisbane. They have a highly experienced batting line-up, which has no reason to fail. Skipper Brendon McCullum will have to lead the way for sure with his aggression. He has adopted a ‘go-all-out’ tactic, which worked perfectly in the World Cup, but failed him in the mother of all clashes, in the final. It would be interesting to note whether McCullum will tone down his antics to an extent, and adjust to the requirements of the five-day game. Either ways, it would be intriguing.
The Kiwis have many more match-winners in the form of Kane Williamson, who is the best product to come out of New Zealand cricket in the last decade, the experienced Ross Taylor, and opener Martin Guptill, who is finally beginning to repay the faith the selectors have shown in him over the years. In the bowling, they have, arguably, two of the best pace bowlers in Test cricket, in Tim Southee and Trent Boult. A lot could however also depend on how Doug Bracewell, and the spinner Mark Craig backs the duo.
Australia now they have a challenge on their hands. Looking at the inexperience in the batting, a lot may depend on their two most seasoned batsmen, David Warner and now full-time skipper Steven Smith. But, the series also provides an opportunity for the likes of Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Marsh to establish themselves. In spite of his Ashes debacle, Adam Voges gets another chance to rescue his career. The bowling will be in the hands of the dangerous Mitchell Johnson and the reliable Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, with Nathan Lyon continuing to be the main spinner.
--By A Cricket Analyst