Christchurch: Brendon McCullum believes the New Zealand side he leads into the World Cup opener against Sri Lanka in Christchurch today is the best prepared Kiwi team he has known.

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum. PIC/AFP
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum. PIC/AFP

The 33-year-old, heading into his fourth World Cup, is not prepared to pick a tournament winner but he has no doubt New Zealand will be in the mix at the end despite their world ranking of six. After winning four of their past five ODI series, the feeling of hope that previous New Zealand teams clung to has been replaced by belief, he said.

“It’s the best prepared team, all round team, we tick most boxes,” he said yesterday as the team headed out to their final practice at the Hagley Oval before cricket’s 44-day glamour tournament begins.
“The style of play is something we’re comfortable with. We’ve had different personnel come in and out over the last little while but the game plan has always remained the same.

“Overall we’ve got a nice mix of youth and experience. It’s a team I’m really comfortable taking into a World Cup and we give ourselves a good chance.”

Heading into the tournament New Zealand have comfortably won series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the past six weeks and beaten highly-rated South Africa in a warm-up game this week.

The Malinga factor
They have shown they can win both defending and chasing a target, although McCullum conceded they had not faced Sri Lankan ace Lasith Malinga who is poised to return after a lengthy injury layoff.

“He makes a significant difference to their bowling line up, predominantly more at the back end of the game in terms of his death bowling,” he said.

“He’s a phenomenal death bowler and he’s going to be a factor which we will have to overcome if we’re going to succeed in this game. But if we can head into those final overs with a nice platform then hopefully we can put him under a bit of pressure.”

Captain's wishlist
Brendon McCullum, New Zealand skipper
>> The team continues their good form.
>> Corey Anderson fires along with Kane Williamson.
>> Bowlers stick to the planned line and length.
>> Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath flop.

Captain's wishlist
Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka skipper
>> Lasith Malinga makes early inroads.  
>> Sangakkara and Jayawardene make most of their experience.
>> Quick start from Dilshan.
>> McCullum and Williamson fail to fire.