Cricket World Cup 2011

McCullum wants NZ to step up

2011-03-17 19:20
Nathan McCullum (Gallo)

Mumbai - Nathan McCullum has urged the rest of the New Zealand squad to step up against Sri Lanka in the absence of key players Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills.

The two bowlers are hopeful of returning for the quarter-finals, but will sit out Friday's game in which the winner will be guaranteed at least a top-two finish in Group A.

McCullum said on Friday he was aware his offspin would come under increased scrutiny in the absence of Vettori, New Zealand's leading one-day wicket-taker.

"I guess I would have to be more consistent and more aware that I have to perform my role to full strength like a number of other people do," said McCullum, whose 15 ODI wickets have come at an average of just under 50. "We are losing players like Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills, it just means that we have to play well with the more experienced guys and even the younger guys have to stand up and perform their role well."

Mills' absence after he limped off in New Zealand's win over Canada could mean a second opportunity at this World Cup for 23-year-old Hamish Bennett.

Vettori, who injured his knee against Pakistan, was replaced by 20-year-old Kane Williamson for the win over Canada, New Zealand's fourth from five matches in Group A. The side was captained by Ross Taylor, who hit a 74 from 44 balls to follow his unbeaten 131 in the win over Pakistan.

It marks a dramatic upturn in form for the Kiwis, who late last year went on a miserable run of 11 straight defeats in losing series in Bangladesh and India.

McCullum believes the introduction of John Wright as coach and former South African paceman Allan Donald as bowling expert has been key.

"There is always going to be cultural changes with a change in personnel," he said. "There are a couple of fresh voices but a couple of experienced voices.

"It's allowed us to put things behind us on what happened in the past few months. It's important what's happening, not what's going to happen or what happened earlier."

With that in mind, McCullum said New Zealand is only focused on beating Sri Lanka, and not on who might be waiting in the quarter-finals - even if finishing in the top two might give the Kiwis a better chance of reaching a sixth World Cup semi-final.

"You can look at those things and worry about it but at the end of the day we don't want any distractions," he said. "We are preparing for tomorrow's game and on doing well.

"We can go on to win Friday's game and finish in the top two. That's really our target and not who we are playing against in the quarterfinals."


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