Cricket: Black Caps' skills against spin exposed

By Andrew Alderson in Indore

The Black Caps' second innings batting submission in the third test against India has highlighted the deeper issue of how New Zealand cricketers graft out subcontinental success.

Playing spin with confidence is at the issue's core after New Zealand succumbed to the guile of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on the fourth day in Indore to wrap the series.

They were dismissed for 153 in 44.5 overs, their lowest total and least time spent batting over the three tests. Attack appeared to be deemed the best form of defence to endure against the pressure.

New Zealand's subcontinental record had been improving since August 2012, the last time they lost a series (2-0 against India) and Mike Hesson's first tour as coach. New Zealand have since drawn series with Sri Lanka (1-1), Bangladesh (0-0) and Pakistan (1-1) before suffering 197-run, 178-run and 321-run losses to the new world No.1's over the last month.

The last of the country's two test victories in India came 28 years ago in Mumbai. Before that it was Nagpur in 1969.

To do it again, or entertain the dream of a series victory, will require significant planning.
The New Zealand players' athleticism and commitment is beyond reproach; the gap that needs bridging is one of skill level, particularly against spin.

With so much cricket played on the subcontinent, the return of 'A' tours seem mandatory to immerse non-Indian Premier League players into the environment. New Zealand Cricket has to decide if the costs outweigh the benefits, given such a plan could mean sacrificing local investment.

"The more you play in these conditions the better you'll be," captain Kane Williamson said.

"People talk a lot about county cricket in that way. You're far more aware of what to expect if you've played in England, and this is no different.

"Another tough point is that you are playing so much international cricket it is tricky to get the extra preparation you'd like. You are learning on the job a bit, which is the nature of the beast, but at the same time it is important through the likes of 'A' teams that guys get extra time to play in these conditions.

"It's not an easy place to play, we understand that," Indian captain Virat Kohli added.

"Especially if the home team is playing their best cricket. It's difficult for them to find areas they can exploit. The way they go about their cricket is pretty good... we had to press them hard.

"Every time they were put under pressure, they bounced back. They also put us under pressure but I think we've been better in the series at coming back from those situations."

"Naturally it's disappointing," Williamson said of the losses. "It's important, although frustrating, that we come away from here having learnt a huge amount as a young group exposed in these conditions.

A lack of runs was core to the problem, with New Zealand behind India on the first innings throughout the series after the hosts opted to bat in each test.

"Some of our efforts were quite good," Williamson said. "But we needed one or two guys to step up and apply themselves beyond just starts. From all of us it wasn't enough."

Williamson endorsed the attacking fourth innings mindset, despite the dire circumstances which had New Zealand 'chasing' 475 for victory.

"It is a challenge, especially on wickets conducive to spin that make attacking tough. Sometimes being positive when it is doing more is the way forward.

"It's always tough when the opposition have those runs on the board and the wicket has deteriorated to the stage it was today.

"There can be times when you can be over-positive and you want to get guys away from around the bat to make defensive cricket easier. If guys were to sit there and defend, that wouldn't be the answer either.

Williamson had a battle of his own to bookend the viral illness that saw him miss the second test. Ashwin dismissed him in each of his four innings in Kanpur and Indore.

"It's not a mental block, more the quality of his bowling in these conditions which turn a lot. He's at his best exploiting those, and has shown that for a long time.

"I was a victim a few times. He had so much rough to bowl into which is nice [for a spinner]."

- NZ Herald

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