Kiwis in a tailspin

Cricket : NZ need to find a way to counter Indian tweakers at Bangalore

Kiwis in a tailspin

Even in a Twenty20 game if a batsman gets out attempting a reverse sweep, he will feel sheepish. Imagine such a situation in a Test match.

New Zealand’s Kruger van Wyk fell while trying to reverse-sweep R Ashwin but missed the line of the carrom ball to be caught in front.

The walk back to the dressing room might have seemed eternal for the little-built batsman as the raucous holiday crowd got only noisier sensing India’s imminent victory here in the first Test on Sunday.

By extension, it was the agony the entire New Zealand team had to suffer in a match they lost by an innings and 115 runs inside four days. Not to mention the loss of over five hours of play due to bad light and rain. If van Wyk had a sense of embarrassment for the manner in which he lost his wicket, New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor had no place to hide when he was bowled offering no stroke to an off-breaker from Ashwin.

While Taylor spoke of rectifying the mistakes in time for the Bangalore Test starting August 31, their dismal show against Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, who accounted for 18 of the 20 Kiwi wickets, gives little hope of such a turn-around. Admittedly, New Zealand boasts of more than a decent batting line-up which has the likes of Brendon McCullum (the double centurion here last time), Kane Williamson (scored a ton during his previous tour of India), Martin Guptill besides Taylor himself in its ranks.

It thus raises the question that is it more to do with some kind of mental block against the turning and bouncing ball than the lack of required skill to handle the spinners? Taylor said it was a bit of (lack of) technique but a lot to do with the mental make-up of the batsmen. “Obviously, (it’s to do with) a little bit of technique but I think most of it is probably in the mind,” he remarked.

“Trusting your defence and trusting your attacking shots (is crucial). When you get bogged down, it puts a lot of pressure on you and there was a lot of pressure going out there. It’s about rotating the strike, finding your singles options. We are not big players of using our feet, so we need to create lengths in different ways. In the next game, I am sure we will try that,” he reasoned.

When asked how his batsmen would handle Ashwin at the beginning of the Test, Taylor had said his batsmen had plans to tackle the off-spinner. “We just spent a month playing (Sunil) Narine (of the West Indies) and I think they are very similar bowlers. We have got plans in place for him. We need to combat him; not only not let him settle but also score off him and deny him wickets.”

Neither could they score off the bowler nor could they deny him wickets. If indeed they had any plans against the 25-year-old, none of them was applied at the centre. The visiting batsmen looked to be paying more attention to the bowlers than the deliveries bowled.

“I would hope not,” Taylor replied when asked if the batsmen were more concerned with the bowlers’ perceived guile than what they actually came up with. “... But they are both very good spinners in turning conditions. When the ball turns it is a lot easier to play but when it bounces, it’s a different ball game. Come Bangalore, we need to be as positive as possible. Clear the mind, trust our defence, but also find a way of scoring runs as well.”

While another test of turns and twirls awaits the Kiwis, the good news for them is that it’s been pouring heavily for the last few days in Bangalore with further forecasts for rain. And if the pitch doesn’t get enough sunlight to dry up, the spinners may not be as threatening as they were in Uppal. It’s a big ‘if’ though.

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