New Zealand have announced their 15-man squad for the 2019 Cricket World Cup, which will be held in England and Wales starting from May 30th. The team has gone for a lot of experienced players and the inclusion of rookie wicketkeeper Tom Blundell's comes as a huge surprise.
They are the first team to announce their squad for the most awaited cricketing tournament.
The Black Caps hope to shed their tag as valiant losers and claim the title after exiting in the semi-finals six times and suffering a heavy defeat to Australia in their only appearance in the final, four years ago.
New Zealand are currently third in the one-day rankings, behind England and India.
Coach Gary Stead said the Kane Williamson-led side had repeatedly excelled at the top level and he was confident the consistency would shine through at the tournament in England and Wales.
"We've got a squad here of 15 players that we think can give us a really, really good chance of going far into the tournament," he said.
"If we play close to our potential, then hopefully we can do New Zealand proud." Wellington keeper Blundell was selected after Tim Siefert, the regular back-up to first-choice gloveman Tom Latham, broke his finger in a domestic match last month.
While Blundell, who has two Test caps, will likely make his One-Day International (ODI) debut at the tournament. His role will be marginal if Latham stays fit. Though given that the format this time is Round-Robin League type, there are chances that the New Zealand camp might try him out at some stage.
Mitchell Santner will be the New Zealanders' primary spinner, with Ish Sodhi edging Todd Astle to claim the second slow bowling position.
"(Selecting) the spinners was very tough, and both had signs at times that they should've been the one that was selected... but at the end of the day that's my call to make," Stead said.
The pace attack comprises Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry, while Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme add all-round options.
Henry Nicholls is set to open the batting with veteran Martin Guptill after displacing Colin Munro at the top of the order, although Munro will make the trip as batting cover.
Williamson and Ross Taylor, in his fourth World Cup campaign, complete a battle-hardened batting line up.
Williamson, Taylor, and Guptill have collectively amassed 526 ODI appearances between them.
Guptill and Taylor have not confirmed their post-tournament plans but will most likely be looking to exit cricket's biggest stage on a high.
The Kiwis will open their campaign against Sri Lanka in Cardiff on June 1st.
Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham(WK), Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Tom Blundell(WK)
(With PTI inputs)