Kane Williamson (left) will captain New Zealand at the World Cup in England. Picture: Michael Bradley
Kane Williamson (left) will captain New Zealand at the World Cup in England. Picture: Michael Bradley

Kiwis quick off the mark as World Cup squad named

New Zealand have become the first nation to name its World Cup line-up, submitting its squad three weeks ahead of the first deadline.

Wicketkeeper Tim Blundell is the most surprising call for the 15-man squad named on Wednesday by coach Gary Stead and selector Gavin Larsen.

The 28-year-old Wellington keeper made a century on his Test debut but has yet to play a one-day international.

Blundell has played two tests and three Twenty20 internationals but missed New Zealand's last domestic one-day season and has averaged only 23 at a strike rate of 79 in 40 List A matches to date.

He came into contention when New Zealand determined it needed a specialist keeper to back up wicketkeeper-batsman Tom Latham at the World Cup, which starts in England on May 30.

Tim Seifert, an aggressive top-order batsman who has ODI experience and scored 84 and 43 in T20 internationals against India this season, was likely the preferred candidate to back up Latham before suffering a broken finger in the final round of the domestic season.

Seifert will be over that injury in time for the World Cup but Blundell, New Zealand's back-up Test gloveman behind B.J. Watling, is now seen as a better option.

The selection of leg-spinner Ish Sodhi ahead of Todd Astle is the other chief talking point of the squad.

Astle appeared to have edged ahead in the race for the specialist spinner's berth when he was chosen for New Zealand's final one-day series of the summer against Bangladesh.

But he has played only nine one-day internationals and the selectors may have been swayed by the greater experience of Sodhi who has played 30 ODIs.

Astle bowls into the wicket more than Sodhi and was thought likely to be suited to English conditions but Sodhi has recently been in outstanding form, taking 26 wickets in his last four four-day matches for Northern Districts.

Hard-hitting batsman Colin Munro has been retained despite a recent loss of form which saw him lose his opening role to Henry Nicholls who now combines at the top of the order with Martin Guptill.

Munro has been chosen as back up in middle order.

Among a bevy of all-rounders, Colin de Grandhomme appears to have edged out Doug Bracewell for the final spot. De Grandhomme has stronger batting credentials and his medium pace swing bowling may also suit English conditions.

The other all-rounders are Jimmy Neesham and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner. Seamers Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry have both been in good form throughout the domestic summer and have been selected alongside the regular new ball pair Tim Southee and Trent Boult.

The squad was named at Tai Tapu Primary School, a small country school near Christchurch. Expectations of the team are high after New Zealand reached the final of the last World Cup in 2015 which it co-hosted with Australia.

"As with any squad named for a major tournament, there's had to be some tough calls and there will be some disappointed players," Stead said.

"The key for us was finding the right balance for the squad and making sure we had our bases covered for what is going to be a very competitive World Cup."

New Zealand squad in full:

Kane Williamson (captain), Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Tom Blundell, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Jimmy Neesham, Ish Sodhi, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult.