Cricket: "We're in a bit of a trough" says Black Caps coach

A familiar scene on the fourth day at Indore. AP/Photo
A familiar scene on the fourth day at Indore. AP/Photo

The Black Caps' second innings batting submission in the third test against India raises a fundamental question: can New Zealand cricketers ever graft out consistent subcontinental success?

Playing spin with confidence remains the key issue after New Zealand succumbed to 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. The missive seemed to be that attack was the best form of defence to alleviate pressure.

New Zealand's subcontinental test 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 with Sri Lanka (1-1), Bangladesh (0-0) and Pakistan (1-1). That credibility has deteriorated after 197-run, 178-run and 321-run losses to the world No.1s over the last month.

"We're in a bit of a trough," coach Mike Hesson said. "We were exposed in this series against an experienced side in tough conditions."

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 fantasy 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, particularly batting against spin.

"There were a few soft dismissals," Hesson said. "Most were brought about by fielders around the bat where, if you make half a mistake, you're out."

The return of 'A' tours to the subcontinent seems a logical starting point to develop players in this environment. New Zealand Cricket must decide if the costs outweigh the benefits; such a plan could mean sacrificing local investment.

"Ideally we want to pick from players with experience in these conditions," Hesson said.
"New Zealanders need to be exposed to this in their formative years, rather than on the international stage."

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

"However, 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 play in these conditions."

New Zealand were behind India on the first innings throughout the series after the hosts opted to bat in each test.

"We needed one or two guys to step up and apply themselves beyond just starts," Williamson said. The highest New Zealand score was Luke Ronchi's 80 in the fourth innings at Kanpur.

Williamson defended the fourth innings attacking mindset in Indore, after New Zealand were set 475 for victory.

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

"There are times 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 faced his own battle to bookend the viral illness that ruled him out of the second test. Ashwin dismissed him in each of his four innings on his way to 27 wickets as man of the series.

"It's not a mental block, it's 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."

- NZ Herald

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