ICC World Twenty20
Kiwis maintain self belief
Wellington - New Zealand's cricket selectors were forced to trawl the roster of walking wounded to pull together their most competitive available team for the Twenty20 world championships.
A third of the squad were in doubt until Saturday when, after surviving an intensive training camp in Australia, they were declared fit enough just before their flight departed for the West Indies.
Jesse Ryder, Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills, Ian Butler and Aaron Redmond are still undergoing rehabilitation and may not be fully match fit, but team manager Dave Currie believes that "fingers crossed" they are ready.
"They've been pushed pretty hard to make sure we don't take any injuries with us to the West Indies. It's been survival of the fittest really and everyone's got through it well," he said.
While 11 players went through the week-long training regime in Australia, Daniel Vettori, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum and Shane Bond tuned up in the Indian Premier League.
But despite the patched-up look about the squad, New Zealand still rate themselves as genuine contenders in a wide-open tournament.
Ryder and McCullum form an explosive opening partnership with McCullum posting an unbeaten 116, one short of Chris Gayle's world record, when New Zealand beat Australia in a Twenty20 match in February.
They will lead a seasoned top order that includes Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor, while the bowling echelon features Vettori, Bond and Mills who are among the top six ODI bowlers according to the ICC rankings.
Ryder, who has been sidelined by a raft of injuries since last September, described his progress as "probably not 100 percent but it's as good as it's going to get.
"I've been out for about six months and to come back and to score runs like I did has been good."
Oram believes New Zealand are at least capable of matching their performance at the inaugural world Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007 where they reached the semi-finals.
"If we can get everyone fit then we're a real chance to go all the way," he said, confident he would see out the tournament after recovering from a knee injury.
Coach Mark Greatbatch conceded some members of the side would need the warm up games in the West Indies against the tournament hosts and Ireland to round off their preparation, but said overall it was a well balanced side.
"We think we have some very dynamic batters, who can be lethal in this form of the game. Our bowlers are also very effective Twenty20 performers."
New Zealand have stacked their side with spinners for the West Indies wickets with Vettori supported by Nathan McCullum, Rob Nicol and Redmond while Oram and Ryder have a sound strike rate with their nagging medium pacers.
"Obviously the squad balance we've got ... means that if they're (the pitches) going to turn and be slow there's definitely going to be the option of using more spin," Greatbatch said.
New Zealand are a proven force in the shorter versions of cricket, and last October reached the final of the Champions Trophy tournament in South Africa.
However, that was with a predominantly fully fit team and former international Craig McMillan warned against taking anyone into the Twenty20 who is not 100 percent.
"The intensity level is so much higher than in any other form of the game," he said. "Even if it only goes for three hours, you can't afford to carry anyone. A niggling injury will be shown up."