The death of Martin Crowe overshadowed the New Zealand team’s departure for the World Twenty20 tournament with batsmen Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor likely to be most affected having being mentored by the former captain.
Crowe, considered one of New Zealand’s finest batsmen, died aged 53 on March 3 after battling cancer for almost four years, just hours before the team departed for a Dubai training camp ahead of the tournament.
Both Guptill and Taylor had been heavily involved with Crowe in the last four years, with the former’s technique receiving an overhaul under his tutor, transforming him into one of the pre-eminent limited overs batsmen in the world.
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“I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and friend to help me through the last couple of years,” Guptill wrote on social media. “You inspired me to become a better person on and off the field. I will miss you.”
Guptill had issues against nagging line and length in last month’s test series at home to Australia and is under scrutiny in India to reproduce the form from last year’s one-day World Cup, when he was the tournament’s leading scorer.
His biggest issue will be how he adapts to the slow, spinning wickets in India, where he has struggled with the ball not coming onto the bat and which was considered a factor in him being passed over in last month’s Indian Premier League auction.
Taylor is expected to bat at number five, one place lower than he normally does in tests and one-day internationals, to close out the innings after Guptill, Colin Munro and all-rounder Corey Anderson provide the fireworks in the top order.
Grant Elliott and wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi complete the trio of power-hitting middle order batsmen, who can also work the ball around to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Mindful of the conditions, the selectors have chosen three specialist spinners and also have the part-time spin of new captain Kane Williamson available.
Mitchell Santner is considered more of a batting all-rounder who bowls good left arm orthodox spin, while the economical off-spinner Nathan McCullum is making his final appearance before following younger brother Brendan into retirement.
It will be the legspin of Ish Sodhi, that could prove the most intriguing, having taken career-best figures of 7-102 in a first class match last month and then 4-24 in a Twenty20 warmup game before the team left New Zealand.