Injury scare for Kiwis ahead of Kenya clash
Beleaguered New Zealand are likely to be without all-rounder Nathan McCullum when they take on underdogs Kenya in their opening World Cup game on Sunday.india Updated: Feb 19, 2011 14:06 IST
Beleaguered New Zealand are likely to be without all-rounder Nathan McCullum when they take on underdogs Kenya in their opening World Cup game on Sunday.
The key player was hospitalised with high fever and was expected to be discharged only on Saturday, making him a doubtful starter for the day match at the Chidambaram Stadium.
Over the last few months McCullum has established himself as a regular member of the one-day side, backing up captain Daniel Vettori as the second spinner and contributing runs lower down the order.
In his likely absence, Vettori may have to draft in left-arm spinner Luke Woodcock, who has played only two one-day internationals.
McCullum's setback is the latest in a long list of worries for the Kiwis who go into the tournament low on confidence, having lost 14 of their last 16 one-day internationals.
Their woeful run prompted the cricket board to go for a major reshuffle ahead of the recent Pakistan series with John Wright named as coach and an independent selection panel put in place.
Semi-finalists in two of the three previous World Cups, the Kiwis have had little to cheer about after arriving in the sub-continent.
They scraped to an unconvincing win over lowly Ireland despite scoring 311 before a 117-run thrashing at the hands of India in their two warm-up games.
Ross Taylor, deputising as captain for an injured Vettori in the India match, accepted that the team needed to lift their game in all the departments.
"Our spinners are not known as big turners," he said. "We yielded big runs to the Indians. We need to find ways to score runs quickly and also find the boundary options.
"When chasing that big a total, you got to get runs by boundaries. You need to do that otherwise you get eliminated. Hopefully, we can improve our performance in the World Cup."
Vettori, nursing a hamstring strain, is expected to be fit in time for the match.
A major headache for the Kiwis has centred around where to play attacking batsman Brendon McCullum.
McCullum, the younger brother of Nathan, was pushed down the order in one-dayers against Pakistan last month but has been restored as an opener once again.
"The previous two World Cups I played down the order where you've got reasonably limited opportunities to create an impact," said McCullum, who scored just 152 runs from 10 innings in the last two World Cups.
"That's why I'm absolutely determined to play a role at the top of the order. Coming to India the best time to bat is when the ball is new."
Kenya have their own issues to deal with, although they must be eyeing their chances of an upset win against their under-achieving rivals.
The Kenyans slipped into oblivion after their surprise semi-final appearance in the 2003 World Cup with the sport at home hit by political intrigue.
During the World League for non-Test playing nations in the Netherlands last year, the team finished last without winning a match.
They were duly drubbed by the West Indies and the Netherlands in their two warm-up games in Colombo, raising doubts about their ability to stretch top-rung teams.