Cricket: Black Caps' spin problem to be addressed

By Andrew Alderson

New Zealand's Martin Guptill is bowled out by England's Graeme Swann on the third day of the second test match between England and New Zealand.  Photo / AP
New Zealand's Martin Guptill is bowled out by England's Graeme Swann on the third day of the second test match between England and New Zealand. Photo / AP

One positive outcome may emerge from the batting rubble of the England test series: New Zealand Cricket appears set to send players to the sub-continent more regularly to help them combat spin.

A New Zealand 'A' tour of India - read a hybrid of New Zealand first XI batsmen and second XI bowlers - is being planned before the test team tours Bangladesh in October.

A core part of the strategy would enable players with no sub-continental test caps to get further experience to avoid being further exposed in tests. Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Dean Brownlie and B-J Watling are obvious targets, given coach Mike Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum have hinted their intention is to persevere with the incumbent batsmen, despite the raw aftermath of Lord's and Leeds.

With so much of the cricket calendar based in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, such a strategy must be worth the investment. New Zealand could even subsequently benefit on surfaces like Headingley which turned enough for Graeme Swann to take test best figures of 10 for 132.

He had clear targets created by the Neil Wagner and Trent Boult footmarks, but, if the New Zealanders want to be considered genuine test batsmen, they need to play with more surety and resolve. Half century 10th wicket partnerships might become a bonus rather than a necessity.

There is no suggestion as yet that the 'A' tour will involve the players immersing themselves more in the lifestyle. A more in-depth answer might lie in encouraging young New Zealanders to go to India and Sri Lanka on cricket working holidays.

Perhaps the country's top youth talent could forgo the time-honoured OE tradition of the English league and pints of best bitter at 18, 19 or 20 to head to the subcontinent for a cocktail of maidans and masala.

New Zealand Cricket could establish the odd link through former national players and coaches David Trist and John Wright who have forged solid contacts, especially in India.

Such OEs would introduce players to the wiles of spin at an earlier age, hopefully with the long-term benefit of representing New Zealand in a less possum-in-the-headlights fashion.

Adventurous cricketers could eke out a unique experience with a local club for a couple of months, perhaps foregoing plush hotels for the cheaper, 'character-building' surrounds of a high quality youth hostel. The transport would be tuk-tuks, not air-conditioned buses. NZC could offer some scholarship assistance.

Donning a cap in humid mid 30-degree temperatures and practicing your craft on the low and slow dustbowls of an expansive maidan on a Saturday afternoon, just like Sachin Tendulkar did 25 years ago in Mumbai must surely hold allure.

Alternatively, players could make their name among the plethora of clubs in the Colombo suburb of Cinnamon Gardens. New Zealand might see a return to innings against spin like Stephen Fleming's 274 not out at Colombo, just over a decade ago.

Hesson played the 'inexperience' card when looking for reasons the New Zealand top order failed to build on the respect they had earned in the drawn home series.

He mentioned four of the top seven first-choice batsmen (including Watling) had played 15 tests or less and Kane Williamson is only 22-years-old but has played 25.

It's a fair point but England's top seven (excluding Kevin Pietersen who will come back for the Ashes) also had three (Nick Compton, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow) who had played less than 10 tests.

"In five tests we had two poor sessions with bat," Hesson insisted. "And England were good enough to take advantage. When we've been poor, we've been very poor. It's not a new problem but we can't afford for it to keep happening.

"We could throw everyone away and start again and go through the same process. There's always a point where you have to say enough's enough... but we think these guys are going to be good."

He says they tried to work out a way to play Swann.

"The idea was to get guys moving towards off stump so they could get outside the line [for an lbw] and play with the spin more, but then we went and nicked some straighter ones."

Hesson says it's disappointing the batsmen are not backing up the work of the pace bowlers.

"I've been delighted with the bowling attack's efforts for more than a year, especially with five challenging each other for spots. Trent [Boult] and Tim [Southee] are as good as what is going around. We need to back them up with runs so we earn some fruits from their labour."

- NZ Herald

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