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Cricket: The Ish Sodhi X-Factor

Ish Sodhi will be hoping for a similar performance to his showing last year in Hamilton. Photo / Getty
Ish Sodhi will be hoping for a similar performance to his showing last year in Hamilton. Photo / Getty

Few incumbent New Zealand cricketers generate anticipation like Ish Sodhi.

The 24-year-old looks set for a one-day international recall in tomorrow's deciding Chappell-Hadlee match against Australia.

When the leg spinner canters to the bowling crease, fans know a spectacular vignette could be in the offing.

Yet the romance of wrist spin means a fine line exists between delivering cricket's equivalent of a live chainsaw or a mince 'n' cheese pie.

Sodhi is as aware as anybody of mastering the subtleties of his art, but his recent execution has been riveting.

That includes a candidate for this summer's New Zealand bowling highlight. Sodhi, bowling for the Adelaide Strikers in Australia's Big Bash League, scythed through the Sydney Thunder to take six wickets for 11 runs from 3.3 overs. He displayed a Shane Warne-like mastery of the genre.

That followed T20 displays of three for 36 and two for 22 for New Zealand against Bangladesh.

Sodhi has taken five wickets at an average of 16.20 and an economy rate of 3.37 in the Ford Trophy.

Tomorrow he gets a chance to repeat his success against Australia at the same venue a year ago when he removed Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell in the space of three balls as part of two for 31 from eight overs in the 55-run win which earned New Zealand the series.

On that occasion, Sodhi was a late call-up for the injured Mitchell Santner. He headed down State Highway 1 from Auckland to Hamilton on the morning of the game.

The Herald spoke to Sodhi as he retraced his journey on Friday night.

"There's a sense of déjà vu. The good thing is I've at least got a day of training ahead this time.

"When I get picked, my role remains relatively similar. I'm an attacking bowler, mainly through the middle of games, and that's the same role I'll perform if I'm picked on Sunday. I've also played that role for Northern Districts over the last two to three weeks."

Sodhi's Big Bash experience, where his overall figures were nine wickets at an average of 7.77, strike rate of 7.6 and economy rate of 6.08, vindicated his routines and disciplines.

"It definitely gives you confidence in that short time [three BBL games] but I felt like I'd bowled exactly the same in a number of McDonald's Super Smash games without the reward.

"I kept telling myself 'the wickets will come'. It was a reminder I'm on the right track, because cricket can be a fickle game."

Selector Gavin Larsen suggested Sodhi was "a strong option to play a full part in the match", depending on coach Mike Hesson and captain Kane Williamson's assessment of the surface.

"We've seen the pitch take a bit of turn at Seddon Park. Ish has been bowling well for ND in 50-over cricket and we saw what he did for Adelaide."

Tomorrow's match will be played on the Patumahoe rather than Waikari clay segment of the pitch block. Bounce is expected to be accentuated, a factor which could help Sodhi's tall frame. He enjoys bowling on either surface at his home ground.

"I find the Waikare turns more, and tends to bounce more for me as well. It could be different in someone else's eyes.

"Patumahoe [clay] is generally my favourite soil to bowl on around the country because it has extra bounce. Bowling from my height means it's a strength of mine."

Sodhi took two for 28 in his last appearance at the venue on January 22 against Central Districts in the Ford Trophy.​

Tomorrow the pressure's tweaked up another notch.

- NZ Herald

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