Why McCullum Should Open The Batting In The Cricket World Cup – A Hypothetical Black Caps World Cup Final 1st XI

Brendon McCullum


Here’s my New Zealand cricket XI in the event our team plays to its very real potential and makes the World Cup final on March 29th 2015. With the initial squad of 30 released today, I couldn’t resist quickly tapping out my selection. First, the 30-strong squad (which which later be whittled down to 15). As expected, Jesse Ryder has not been named.

New Zealand Cricket World Cup Squad Of 30:

Corey Anderson
Hamish Bennett
Trent Boult 
Doug Bracewell
Neil Broom
Dean Brownlie 
Colin de Grandhomme 
Anton Devcich
Grant Elliot 
Andrew Ellis 
James Franklin 
Martin Guptill 
Matt Henry
Roneel Hira
Tom Latham
Mitchell McClenaghan 
Brendon McCullum 
Nathan McCullum 
Kyle Mills 
Adam Milne
Colin Munro
James Neesham
Rob Nicol
Luke Ronchi
Hamish Rutherford
Tim Southee 
Ross Taylor
Daniel Vettori
BJ Watling
Kane Williamson

**My World Cup Final 1st XI (in batting order):
1. Martin Guptil
2. Brendon McCullum
3. Kane Williamson
4. Ross Taylor
5. Tom Latham
6. Corey Anderson
7. Luke Ronchi
8. Daniel Vettori
9. Tim Southee
10. Kyle Mills
11. Mitchell McClenaghan
While cricket fans, selectors and statisticians may argue over where McCullum is best suited in both test and ODI batting orders, I’m generally a fan of the stats. When he faces the first ball of a match McCullum only averages 25.8 across 35 matches (versus his career average of 30.05). However, when the Black Caps’ skipper opens in the number two position his average is a world-class 39.42 from 45 matches spanning 2002-2011. Why hasn’t he batted number two since 2011?
As we know he’s been largely at five in the order in recent years where he’s averaged 27.3 from 16 matches. Case closed. McCullum opens alongside Guptil whose outstanding career average is too good to ignore: 38.33 from 87 matches with five hundreds and 18 50s. While he’s had his recent ups and downs, statistically Guptill is in the all-time NZ ODI team.
Williamson and Taylor are certainties while admittedly the middle-order of Latham and Anderson is contestable. That said, I back these two to find consistency in the months before the business end of the World Cup.

At 7 Ronchi is now established, veteran Vettori gets the nod over Nathan McCullum and Southee is a no-brainer. As for Mills, he may be unfashionable but most casual cricket fans have no idea how superior his ODI record is: 236 wickets from just 166 matches at 26.82. Combined with an economy rate of 4.73, Mills is a contender for the most underrated bowler in NZ limited overs cricket history. All of which just gives him the edge over the enormously promising quicks Milne and Henry.

And finally, test-mainstay Boult may ultimately surpass the early-career heroics of McClenaghan (50 wickets from 24 matches), but until then, two wickets per match makes McClenaghan an essential pick. Regardless of the final XI, this Black Caps team is showing real promise across all formats. The ’92 “Young Guns” side came so close to glory thanks to the incomparable batting and captaincy of Martin Crowe, not to mention the supporting actors Mark Greatbatch, Andrew Jones, Dipak Patel, Chris Harris etc. May the 2015 team honour the men of ’92 in the best way possible and lift the trophy for the first time.

*UPDATE DECEMBER 10 – Click here to read how Williamson has now been cleared by the ICC to bowl again (having previously been banned for a suspect action). The Herald article says this is bad news for the prospects of other batsman who bowl spin like Devcich and Nicol, but in my team it’s Neesham who has now (unfortunately) been cut.

Before the clearance of Williamson, the team had four frontline bowlers who’d bowl 10 overs with the other 10 shared between Anderson and Neesham, both who are young and can be expensive but can also take wickets. But with Williamson bowling again this puts pressure on Neesham to find form with the bat. With that in mind, Anderson should shift to 6 in the batting order and a strong batsman – namely Latham – comes in at 5. All just thoughts and my two cents worth!

One Comment Add yours

  1. pdm says:

    I wouldn't waste my time with either Guptill or Mills. Watling who is a class batsman should be opening with McCullum as international teams have Guptill's measure. I liked the look of Milne yesterday – I would give him the new ball with Southee – he gets it through and will get a bit out of NZ and Aussie tracks.

    The rest of your side looks good although there is a risk with Anderson and Neesham at 5 and 6 – we seem overweight with stroke players at present so Williamson and Taylor will have to provide the glue.

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