How do the Black Caps rate?

9:19 am on 12 February 2015

Cricketing history beckons for the Black Caps as they seek to become the first New Zealand side to reach the World Cup final when the tournament begins in Christchurch on Saturday.

Brendon McCullum

Brendon McCullum in action against South Africa in a world cup warm up game at Hagley Oval. Photo: AFP

In six of the ten previous tournaments the Black Caps have reached the last four, but have never made it to the final.

While the Black Caps have home town advantage, will it be enough to see off the likes of world number one Australia and serial chokers South Africa?

In 1992 New Zealand came desperately close to reaching the final only to stumble against Pakistan in a hard fought semi-final at Eden Park.

Fourteen nations will play 49 games over the next six weeks with the victorious side picking up $5 million in prize money.

The competition is split into two pools of seven. The top four sides from each pool then advance to the knockout stage of the tournament.

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum says the side could not be better prepared for the tournament and knows, just as it was for the 1992 New Zealand team, playing at home will be an advantage.

"We've got fond memories of that campaign and how it captivated New Zealand and the manner in which that '92 team played, the innovation and sheer passion they played with certainly resonates with this squad and jeez it'd be great if we could get on some sort of roll and captivate the nation."

The big question mark over the New Zealanders is their ability to cope with genuine fast bowlers of the likes of South Africa's Dale Steyn and Australia's Mitchell Johnson.

South Africa's Dale Steyn is likely to prove a handful for New Zealand's batsmen.

South Africa's Dale Steyn is likely to prove a handful for New Zealand's batsmen. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"Hey it maybe (a problem) we won't know until that moment comes but when we do come up against the raw pace of a Steyn or Johnson we're just going to have to adapt. You can't cover off everything."

Four time winners Australia come into the tournament in pole position.

They sit at the top of the one day world rankings and as tournament co-hosts get to enjoy home advantage too.

They have accounted for defending champions India and England in a recent tri-series but persistent speculation of a rift between captain Michael Clarke, his team mates and the country's cricket governing body remain.

Australia coach Darren Lehman continues to dismiss the reports.

"We know what's going on in our group and we're really comfortable with where we are sitting. We've had a really good last 12 months, out of 23 games we've won 19 of them so we're in a good space," he said.

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion but we know where we are at."

Australia might be ranked number one in the world but it is South Africa, who go into the tournament as favourites.

Currently third on the international one day rankings they boast an array of players who can single handedly turn a game, but they are haunted by the tag of world cup chokers, having never won an elimination game at the tournament.

In skipper AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla they have the top two one day batsmen in the world while Dale Steyn and Mornel Morkel are among the world's top bowlers.

Before leaving South Africa sports minister Fikile Mbalua told the side not to return a bunch of losers.

De Villiers says that kind of pressure does not come as a surprise.

South Africa captain A B de Villiers and his team have been told not to come home a "bunch of losers."

South Africa captain A B de Villiers and his team have been told not to come home a "bunch of losers." Photo: Photosport

"We all looked at each other and went 'ooh here we go' but our country, South Africa, expect a lot from their sports people and we're expected to come here and win the tournament, so we understand that."

India come into this tournament as reigning champions and ranked number two in the world.

But they tend to struggle outside of sub continent conditions and their form in Australia this summer and their performances here last year suggest they are unlikely to defend their crown.

England have a useful bowling line-up but will struggle to get past the quarterfinals as will one time winners Pakistan.

The current Pakistan side is not blessed with players of the calibre of the 1992 title-winning team.

Administrative chaos and baffling squad selections means two-time winners the West Indies are unlikely to get out of pool play.

They are without leading players Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, who were ringleaders in a recent player strike.

Sri Lanka, having had plenty of time playing in New Zealand this summer could well join the Black Caps, South Africa and Australia in the final four - with South Africa and Australia the predicted finalists.

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