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Stead pleased with New Zealand’s squad depth in a World Cup year

Since November 2020, when New Zealand’s summer got underway, it has been a successful last few months for the team as they have emerged victorious in seven straight series. Starting with the T20I series against West Indies till the recently concluded T20Is against Bangladesh, New Zealand have been on a roll – registering 17 wins across formats while losing only three games. During this period, New Zealand also sealed a spot in the ICC World Test Championship final with Test series wins against West Indies and Pakistan.

One of the Test wins came at Mount Maunganui where Pakistan put up a fight, batting in excess of 120 overs in the second innings. Had they pulled off a draw, New Zealand’s WTC qualification might have been jeopardy but they managed to hang in there and eventually won by 101 runs, with less than five overs remaining in the game.

“It’s been really exciting for the team, we’ve played some really good cricket across all formats of the game,” said New Zealand coach Gary Stead on Friday (April 2). “If you said to me at the start of the year that those results would be what they would be I’d say, yeah, I’d sign up for that any day. (I) think winning Test matches is still the ultimate for the group and we knew at the start of the summer that we needed to win four of them to give us a chance of the final so to do that was pretty exciting, especially the game at Mount Maunganui went it went right down to the wire.”

Among the things that have gone well for New Zealand in the season, has been the emergence of players like Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, Will Young, Daryl Mitchell and Finn Allen, who have masked the absence of some of the key names in the team with their good performances. With Lockie Ferguson and Adam Milne also returning after injury lay-offs, the abundance of resources for New Zealand augurs well for them in a World Cup year.

“I can assure you when we sit round the selection table they don’t get shorter at the moment. Think that’s a healthy problem to have. That depth is really important to our future over the next five to ten years. The guys that have been brought into the team for the first time or returning players who have come back – to see all of them step up and in team performances on most occasions that we are really proud of is the thing that’s the most pleasing for me,” said Stead.

“There will still be people who will be disappointed and feel unlucky to have missed the squad and I think that’s a great thing about the depth that we are showing in New Zealand at the moment. It’s an exciting group, I think, that’s going over there, and it’s a group that has also proven themselves over a period of time and shown that we can compete with all the teams around the world,” he added.

Stead hopeful on Conway travelling to England

The South Africa-born Devon Conway has been in rollicking form since making his New Zealand debut at the start of the season. The 29-year-old, who has featured in 14 innings – T20Is and ODIs combined – has accumulated 698 runs at an average of 63.45, with five fifties and a hundred. The New Zealand coach believes Conway “looks like he’s got all the skills of being an amazing player” and could end up in the same class as Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.

Although he is yet to make his Test debut, Conway’s breakthrough season and his proven track record in first class cricket (7130 runs at 47.21 with 18 hundreds and 32 fifties) make him a valuable addition to the Test squad when New Zealand visit England in May. But whether Conway will be able to make the trip to England, is wrapped up in red tape.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 regulations permit only permanent residents to leave and return to the country. Conway qualified to play for New Zealand in August last year but his application for residency is still in process.

“(I) think it’s still in the pipeline but my understanding is Devon has been spoken to and is hopeful everything will be in place before [the series]. You’ve all seen how Devon’s played this year; think I want him part of that Test squad, definitely,” said Stead.

“I knew he was a good player, guess at times you can be pleasantly surprised how people make that adjustment. Devon looks like he’s got all the skills of being an amazing player. We are very fortunate that we’ve had people in our squad like Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson and you see someone like Devon Conway come along and you think here’s another guy who could be in that class,” he added.

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