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End of era for New Zealand after white-ball title again proves elusive

Possible wholesale changes ahead for New Zealand.
Possible wholesale changes ahead for New Zealand.Reuters
Victory over Papua New Guinea does little do lift the mood for New Zealand after a forgettable Twenty20 World Cup that could result in sweeping changes.

A dead rubber win over minnows Papua New Guinea offered little consolation for eliminated New Zealand whose poor Twenty20 World Cup campaign may ultimately mark the end of an era.

Having made at least the semi-finals of the last three editions, New Zealand crashed out in the opening round this time around following a shock defeat to Afghanistan and a loss to co-hosts West Indies.

Long-serving seamer Trent Boult has played his last World Cup and further personnel changes may be expected if the team are to rejuvenate ahead of the next T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka and India in 2026.

"It's natural at the end of the World Cup cycle, and especially if you haven't done quite as well as what you wanted, that there's a lot of reflections going on," head coach Gary Stead said before the squad flew out of Port of Spain.

"Usually these things mean there's a line in the sand that's made and from there you make decisions around the way forward.

"I guess for us, looking at the next T20 World Cup in two years' time, it will be very quickly into (deciding) what does that look like (and) which of these players remain in the group?"

Some seven months after Kane Williamson's side reached their fifth successive semi-finals of the one-day World Cup, New Zealand's calamity in the Caribbean ends a strong run in the game's showpiece tournaments.

Under the steady partnership of captain Williamson and coach Stead, New Zealand won the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) in 2021 and reached the T20 World Cup final in the United Arab Emirates a few months later.

However, a long-coveted white-ball trophy has proved beyond the Black Caps, and fans have questioned whether the current leadership can ever deliver one.

Stead is contracted as an all-formats coach through to the end of the current WTC cycle in 2025 but may end up relinquishing the white-ball component of his role, having previously advocated for a specialist to oversee the shorter formats.

Williamson, who handed off the test captaincy in 2022 to paceman Tim Southee, may also decide it is time for someone else to lead the Black Caps in white-ball cricket, or time for him to drop a format in order to prolong his career.

"Oh, I don't know," said the 33-year-old, when asked if he would be part of New Zealand's T20 setup in 2026.

"There's a bit of time between now and then, so it's about regrouping as a side.

"We've got red-ball cricket over the next year basically, so it's back into some other international formats, and we'll see where things land."

As with the test team, who finished sixth in the defence of their WTC title when the cycle ended last year, New Zealand may struggle to rebuild a T20 squad that can challenge the world's best in time for the 2026 World Cup.

A lighter load or a lucrative career in franchise cricket may beckon for some senior players, including 35-year-old Southee, long Boult's pace partner.

"The older New Zealand players would have looked at this as maybe their last good opportunity, so it might be that it's time to move on," former captain Stephen Fleming told ESPNcricinfo.

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