In the three-day warm up game against Mumbai, the primary focus of New Zealand was to acclimatise to the Indian conditions and test their resources. Opener Luke Ronchi put it best: “We have had training sessions in a three day game, which is really good,” he said after his ton on Sunday, the final day of the match.
And the New Zealand “training session” touched all the important aspects. Their batsmen took on the spinners on Day One at the Ferozshah Kotla, the spinners practiced bowling quicker through the air on Day Two, while the pacers bent their backs to keep the batsmen stuck in the crease on a slow surface. The New Zealand management also gave the tail-enders time in the middle, testing how they coped on a turning track.
During the New Zealand second innings, it was left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner who walked in to join Luke Ronchi at No.3 after opener Martin Guptil fell to a Vishal Dabholkar delivery at the slips.
It is unfair to judge the Kiwi tail with the runs they managed to score on the last day of the match. But the minutes they spent on crease will augur well for New Zealand once the Test series starts. Santner scored 8, but batted for 31 minutes. Doug Bracewell walked in next and stayed on for 35 minutes. Trent Boult batted for 53 minutes.
With an experienced Ronchi (107) scoring the bulk of runs on a slow Kotla track, the idea was to give the tailenders a chance to bat.
“I think they (tailenders) are very capable of doing that,” said Ronchi. “In the Test matches, we are going to need everyone to contribute to win games. So the more you can gain from this sort of situation, the more you can bat with them and talk to them while they are batting. You can learn some things and might be able to teach a few things as well.”
Tailenders’ contributing with the bat might prove critical for the visitors in the upcoming series. Last year, when India beat South Africa in the Test series on turning tracks, it were important contributions from Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin that helped India come out of sticky situations. Had Jadeja and Ashwin failed to score with the bat, the result could have been different.
An aggressive approach from the tail could put the pressure back on the bowling side. The runs are a bonus, of course.
At Mohali last year, Jadeja jumped out generously to loft the South African spinners over the head to collect quick runs. That troubled the spinners and they were forced to change their lengths. Short deliveries on a slow turner gave Jadeja more time to whack it to the ropes.
With the Kanpur wicket also expected to spin, the New Zealand lower-order was trying to step out and take on the spinners. On Sunday, Santner, Bracewell and Boult kept charging down the track to disturb the rhythm of the Mumbai bowlers. Boult even tried reverse sweeps and got some quick runs.
“We have got some net sessions left before the first test,” added Ronchi. “The batsmen will try to hit as many balls in the nets, and the bowlers will go about their job, working out game plans so you go into game with full confidence.”