Cricket: Hira with work to do

By Kris Shannon of APNZ in Bangalore

Ronnie Hira. Photo / Dean Purcell
Ronnie Hira. Photo / Dean Purcell

New Zealand's two Twenty20 matches against India are about shaking off the cobwebs, finding some form for the World Cup and, for Ronnie Hira, solidifying a spot in the side.

The left-arm spinner plays in a position of real strength for the Black Caps and, as a result, the next two games mean more to him than most as he attempts to earn selection in Sri Lanka.

Dan Vettori and Nathan McCullum are the team's main tweakers, while part-timers Rob Nicol and Kane Williamson are also more than handy in the shortest form of the game.

Hira is the only in the group who wouldn't warrant selection with both bat and ball, so he knows he must make the most of any opportunity that arrives at the bowling crease against India.

"It's going to be tough with Dan and Nath around as well," Hira said. "Hopefully I can try to show my wares [in India] a little bit.

"I'm just here trying to help New Zealand win and if I can do my part - whether that's carrying the drinks or if I get a chance to play - then that will be great."

Hira does have a plan for when that chance presents itself, a plan which has been well cultivated in his previous six internationals. It is the same strategy which saw him selected for the national side for the first time against Zimbabwe last summer after a successful campaign with domestic champions Auckland.

"I'll go in with the same sort of plans that I have done before and try to not go wicket hunting but try to dry the runs up, and hopefully the wickets will come from the other end," Hira said.

"I've got to be a little more street smart about the pace and variations and a little bit of line as well. I've been working on those in the nets and I'll be continuing to work on those during these two Twenty20s."

The success of those plans has seen Hira painted as something of a Twenty20 specialist at international level, a tag which arrived by accident rather than design but one he is happy to wear for the time being.

"I'm 25 now and the six games I've played I've cherished very one of them. Hopefully, barring injury, I'll get to play a few more in this trip.

"If those things (ODIs and test) come along in the future, then great."

Whether Hira cherished the last of the six matches, against the West Indies in Florida, is doubtful. That wasn't due to the result or a poor performance, rather his ill-advised attempt to haul in a Chris Gayle thunderbolt from his own bowling.

Gayle's hard hit ball was always going to be the winner in that contest, and Hira's tour came to a premature and painful end with the dislocation of his middle finger.

"I think I made it through about 25 per cent of the game before ending up in hospital," he said. "The finger's healed all right, though, and I've been training over the last week and preparing well with the support staff and the coaches."

Those coaches would have done well to advise Hira to avoid the next straight drive from Gayle. Aside from that receiving information, the last week has been spent watching the test team, soaking up the atmosphere and studying the opposition.

"They play spin very well and, on these decks, the ball turning doesn't seem to make that much difference to them," Hira said. "It's going to be tough but hopefully we'll be ready for it."

- APNZ

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