As the Test series against India looms large, New Zealand think-tank is already thinking about countermeasures against a familiar enemy spin. New Zealand head coach Mike Hesson has identified a contingency plan for the opening position in the event that the regular pair of Martin Guptill and Tom Latham struggle to acclimatize themselves to the Indian conditions.
Coach Hesson wants wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi to play as a pure batsman.
Ronchi is a regular campaigner for New Zealand, but he hardly plays as an opener. But this time in India Ronchi may play as an opener.
Back in the country, Ronchi is widely considered amongst the best players of spin in the country, Ronchi made his debut against England in Leeds in 2015 where he smashed a 70 ball 88 in New Zealand’s series-leveling win before making way immediately.
In the last 28 years, New Zealand has never won a Test match in India. Hesson believes Ronchi’s ability to turn the strike over and keep the scoreboard ticking could hold the team in good stead against the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra.
“It’s not your traditional New Zealand opener that you require over there,” Hesson told stuff.co.nz on Sunday (September 11). “You need guys who can score against spin, find ways to rotate the strike and keep the game moving. Luke’s there as a backup batsman as well as a backup keeper. His ability against spin certainly makes him an option.”
However, Hesson said that Guptill and Latham are likely to retain their spots for the opening Test in Kanpur from September 22 and that he was only keeping his options open in case the situation merited a quick change of plans. The New Zeland coach also threw his weight behind Guptill, known for a circumspect technique against spin, to improve his modest average of 23 in India.
“Seamers, if anything, might bowl 2-3 overs up front and it’s more likely they’re going to have a spin at one end to start with if they’re going to play three of them,” said Hesson, referring to the troika of Ashwin, Jadeja, and Amit Mishra. “And if you’ve got two left-handers against Ashwin at the top it’s going to be a big challenge for us. We have to assess conditions and pick what we think is the right mix.
“It’s important for Martin that he can transfer what he’s been training onto the park. That message has been out there a long time. I know he’s working hard at it.”
Hesson didn’t rule out the possibility of New Zealand fielding three spinners themselves. Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner found considerable success during the World T20 and along with offspinner Mark Craig, could form an equally potent spin attack.
Meanwhile, Hesson also made it clear that New Zealand will fight India with their three best spinners-Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner, and Mark Craig. So India will have reasons to worry about the series.
“They’re a young spin bowling group. Probably Ish and Mitch have found white ball cricket a little easier than Test cricket. They’re both evolving nicely and it’s about giving them the opportunity,” Hesson said.
“I’ve been really pleased with the way Mark Craig has come back from last season. He’s made a few changes technically and the ball seems to be coming out really nicely. It’s a tough tour, we all acknowledge that. More so because the conditions are so foreign. This is trial by spin and also reverse swing so it’s a distinctly different challenge.”
The series will start in Kanpur on September 27.
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