Pool A: Black Caps emerge Phoenix-like as strong contenders

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When South Africa rolled New Zealand for 45 in a Test innings two years ago little did they know they had also sown the seeds for the Black Caps to become strong contenders for the 2015 World Cup.

Notables such as South African skipper AB de Villiers and India's Rahul Dravid head a worldwide chorus of predictions that New Zealand, playing on home wickets through to the semi-finals, will be in the final four at least.

Such sound support reflects the depth of talent building within a squad producing consistent performances far removed from the innings in South Africa which ignited deep soul searching by the New Zealanders.

It may have been a Test match but it brought an across the board shake up of player attitudes with New Zealand's one-day unit developing into a fiercely competitive unit.

The pattern of a top-order failure leading to an innings collapse has been replaced by a culture where they believe they can beat any team; the image of a side filled with individual agendas has been turned into a "team effort" ethos.

"You can't have a team-first mentality if only a few people are buying into it. When you have players sacrificing their own personal records for what the team needs, that's what it's all about," says coach Mike Hesson.

As a result captain Brendon McCullum takes his side into the World Cup off the back of a series win against Sri Lanka and a reputation as team that fights to the end.

In 2012, the year prior to the frank self-analysis, New Zealand had a disappointing 4-10 ODI win-loss record.

After the South Africa debacle, it improved to 7-10 in 2013 and progressed to the right side of the ledger at 9-5 last year.

Three times in the past two years, New Zealand have successfully chased down a target of more than 250 - beating India, Pakistan and England - as they worked on their World Cup strategy.

"It's nice to win games when you're under the pump and that's something we pride ourselves on," says Hesson.

"Chasing under pressure is important. We're going to have a lot of chases in the next few months and we're going to be in pressure situations."

New Zealand are opening their innings with McCullum, a renowned big-hitter, tasked with setting a commanding run-a-ball rate from the start.

"If Brendon doesn't come off it's someone else's opportunity," says Hesson, stressing his philosophy that the loss of key wickets does not have to have a negative impact.

Recent performances show New Zealand are capable of pacing themselves with proven run-scorers Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor following McCullum to steer them deep into the innings.

The reliable Grant Elliott is there should the top order fail and destructive big-hitters Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi are capable of finishing off.

Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Mitchell McClenaghan will vie for the strike bowler positions with the squad also including quality spinners Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum with Elliott and Anderson proven all rounders.

Much of the credit for New Zealand's revival centres around McCullum's leadership with Williamson saying the captain's "lead from the front" approach rubs off on the rest of the squad.

Factfile:

Squad:
Brendon McCullum (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Luke Ronchi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Dan Vettori, Kane Williamson.

Coach: Mike Hesson

Fixtures - Pool A:

Feb 14: Sri Lanka, Christchurch
Feb 17: Scotland, Dunedin
Feb 20: England, Wellington
Feb 28: Australia, Auckland
Mar 08: Afghanistan, Napier
Mar 13: Bangladesh, Hamilton

World Cup record:

1975: Semi-finals
1979: Semi-finals
1983: Pool stages
1987: Pool stages
1992: Semi-finals
1996: Quarter-finals
1999: Semi-finals
2003: Super Six
2007: Semi-finals
2011: Semi-finals

Key player:

Brendon McCullum - Much of the New Zealand game is built around their innovative captain. A renowned big hitter, he is tasked with opening the innings at a run-a-ball rate.

In the field, his astute rotation of bowlers - at times using one-over spells to break stubborn partnerships - is capable of controlling the pace of the game.

McCullum's skillset includes relentless energy when chasing the ball which rubs off on the rest of the team to make New Zealand an extraordinary fielding side.

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