Which side will the ICC World Cup 2023 Warm-up game between Pakistan and New Zealand?
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New Zealand batsman spoke about his stint with Karachi Kings at the PSL and his country's recent success in the Test and ODI formats.

By Amir Husain (20th March, 2019)

The Pakistan Super League’s fourth edition concluded recently in Karachi but the side representing the city of more than 15 million, unfortunately did not qualify for the final and was knocked out in the first eliminator. One of the overseas players who visited Pakistan to play for the Karachi Kings was New Zealand’s Colin Munro who in an exclusive interview with expressed his praise for the high quality of cricket witnessed in the tournament, “I didn’t get to play all the games for Karachi but based on the time I spent in the middle and also watching some of the other sides play, I can say that the standard of the tournament was very high which stands to reason as it did have some excellent international and local players participating in it.”

The popularity of the Twenty20 format of the game seems to have taken the world of cricket by storm with jam-packed crowds now a regular sight in most games of this format played around the world. Amongst the purists, the rise of the Twenty20 format seems to ring alarm bells for the history-laced Test version of the game. However, as Munro explained, Test cricket despite the popularity of the Twenty20 format still holds its own and the example of New Zealand’s recent Test success is testament to its continuing popularity.

“I don’t feel that Twenty20 cricket is threatening to take the focus away from Tests. In fact, I believe that the Test Championship might help this format of cricket to become more popular. As for me, Twenty20 and One-Day cricket has always been my format of choice which is why I have given up on 4-Day cricket back in New Zealand. My aspirations for being a Test player weren’t really working for me but there are players back home who are interested in Test cricket and are still hungry for that version of the game. New Zealand are currently ranked number 2 in Test rankings so we can safely say that Test cricket is pretty strong there which is good news for the game.”

New Zealand's recent ODI form must be a matter of great pride for their supporters as success against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have seen the side rise to 3rd position in ICC’s ODI rankings and as Munro explained, a climb up the ladder to the top of the table could well be within their reach.

“I believe that the top ranking in ODIs is also within our range now. Obviously, we didn’t do that well against a strong Indian side, but we have shown against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh what we are capable of. I feel that we are a good side especially in home conditions. Looking forward to the upcoming World Cup in England, we will also be in a strong position there because if the ball swings then we have two of the best swing bowlers in the world in Tim Southee and Trent Boult and we also have some strong batters striking form at the right time.”

Kane Williamson's stature amongst the world’s top batsmen is beyond doubt. He is currently ranked at the second position behind India’s Virat Kohli in Tests but his utility to his team goes beyond mere statistics as Munro described, “Kane Williamson is Mr. Cool and Calm. He is everything you think about what a Kiwi bloke should be and is just a down to earth person. When he is grumpy with you, he will let you know but that doesn’t happen very often and he’s just a genuine bloke. For a genuine batsman, it is strange to get out in the 90s that often, but it shows that he doesn’t play for himself but plays for the team and that’s what the Kiwis are all about which is to have a team first mentality. So obviously he is a player who doesn’t care about his stats as long as he is doing what’s good for his team. That’s all you can ask from your leader which is to make sure that he puts the team first.”

The experience of playing for English counties is one that has long been accepted as an important part of any overseas cricketer's career development. With a reputation for his striking ability where he currently holds the record for the second-fastest 50 in T20Is and also the second-highest number of centuries in the same format, Munro has been fortunate to represent Worcestershire and Hampshire in T20 Blast tournaments in the past and is not averse to the idea of playing in England once again as he explained, “I would love to be back in England as I played Twenty20 cricket for Worcestershire in 2015 and then represented Hampshire in the same format in 2018. It just depends on whether it conflicts with any other competitions I have signed up for such as the CPL but obviously if the opportunity arises to play in England, I will look at that with all seriousness.”

The 2019 World Cup is just a few months away and to Munro, New Zealand’s current form in the ODI format where they are ranked number three should serve as a warning for all sides who may be considering them as light opposition.

“New Zealand, as a nation of just above 4 million people, have always punched above our weight. You can see that we have competed well in all ICC tournaments in the past and reached semi-finals and we were the finalists in the 2015 World Cup under the captaincy of Brendon McCullum. If we can go strong at some of the big teams in the 2019 World Cup, I think we can go all the way. But for now, as the cliché goes, we need to play one game at a time and when the time comes, we will put in our best effort against whatever opposition is in front of us and see where that takes us.”

The number one ranked ODI side, England, will be the hosts of the World Cup which begins on 30th May and it is no surprise that they are being considered favourites to win the tournament, alongside a very strong India side who suffered a bit of a setback with a loss to the visiting Australian side recently. For Munro, whilst England and India may appear to have good chances to win the prestigious ICC tournament, it will be New Zealand who could easily go all the way and win the World Cup, “England will be a very tough side to beat in their own conditions. But to me, the side to watch for will be India as apart from their strengths, they also seem to have great support wherever they play and it’s pretty much a home game for them wherever they play in England which could be a factor in their success too. So, England and India will be the teams to watch but, in my mind, New Zealand also have the ability to challenge the best teams at the World Cup. When we play in England this summer, we will have to back ourselves one-hundred percent and believe in our abilities and give it our best. If we do that in the World Cup then we could easily go all the way and win the tournament.”