SYDNEY : A golden generation of players in top form will fire New Zealand's bid for a maiden Twenty20 World Cup triumph, but they will have to negotiate a tough draw and alien conditions to secure a second global cricket title this year.
Inaugural world test champions after their victory over India in June, the Black Caps have shown enduring quality by reaching the final of three of the last four major global tournaments.
"It's a good squad, we've never had as much as this talent in New Zealand cricket," Stephen Fleming, coach of the Indian Premier League (IPL) champion Chennai Super Kings, said recently.
"The skill-set and what these guys put out and entertain us with is very high. Coming to grips with these conditions is the challenge ... and then there's a couple of real key games first up, so dealing with pressure and starting well is a priority."
New Zealand's first two games in the Super 12 are against Pakistan and India and they are likely to have to win at least one of them to finish in the top two of the group and progress to the semi-finals.
"We're in a tough pool, I genuinely think there are six-seven teams that could win this tournament," coach Gary Stead said on his arrival in the United Arab Emirates.
"The main goal is to get to that semi-finals stage, and if you're there, you'll know that you're only two wins away from a title."
New Zealand have never been past the last four in the six previous World Cups but confidence will be high after Twenty20 home series triumphs over West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Bangladesh in the last two years.
Whether they can transfer their form from the greenswards of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to the scratchy, dry pitches in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi remains to be seen.
More than half of the squad played a part in the recently concluded IPL in the UAE and former skipper Fleming has been brought into camp to share his knowledge.
Stead has already expressed his confidence in the fitness of talismanic skipper Kane Williamson and, with Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips and Martin Guptill also on board, scoring runs should not be an issue. There is plenty of firepower in the pace bowling unit as well through Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson, but after Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner the spin-bowling options are part-timers.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar)