You can't stand still in T20, even if you're the best in the world. That's why ace leggie never stops learning
If you're wondering how Ish Sodhi's focus is ahead of the three-game T20 series against Pakistan starting today, rest easy.
Unwanted in the test and ODI sides, this is the legspinner's forte right now.
The world's No1-ranked bowler in the shortest game tuned up for the rubber with a superb two for 15 off four overs on Saturday as he befuddled Central Districts' batsmen to help set up a nine-wicket victory for Northern Districts in the Burger King Super Smash final.
He is in the Indian Premier League auction coming up shortly — one of 24 New Zealanders to have made the final cut — but don't bother asking him his prospects of getting a good gig in the event which starts on April 4.
"It's completely out of my control. I'm not thinking about it at all. All I'm thinking about is tomorrow," he said yesterday of the Westpac Stadium clash.
"I've got a game at 4pm and am trying to prepare for that. It's an unbelievable side we're playing [Pakistan are ranked No2 in T20s, behind only New Zealand]. If you're thinking about other things you're probably halfway gone already."
On top of the world
• Ish Sodhi is the world's No1-ranked T20 bowler.
• He has taken 29 wickets in his 18 T20s at an outstanding 14 runs apiece.
• New Zealand go into the three-game T20 series against Pakistan ranked No1, with the visitors No2.
• New Zealand have won six and lost three T20s since January last year.
Sodhi can be forthright, and wears his heart on his sleeve, which is immensely refreshing.
He's loving his bowling right now and "the interesting things with legspin I'm discovering". Watching team-mate Mitch Santner's form this season, including his clever carrom ball which dismissed Pakistan batsman Fakhar Zaman in the fourth ODI in Hamilton, has thrilled him.
"It's fantastic to watch, so good to see the expression of spin bowling. There's so much you can do. For legspin it's the ball that goes away, the one that goes in, and the other that goes straight. But a difference in pace is really important."
Sodhi, whose test and ODI numbers aren't as compelling as in T20, reckons being in an environment where winning is becoming habit-forming — New Zealand are aiming for a 13th straight win in all forms today — can only help a player's game.
"Everyone knows their roles, and clearer than if it wasn't going well. It's good to feed off that."
Pakistan have lost experienced allrounder Shoaib Malik, who flew out to Dubai last night to rest after suffering delayed concussion after he was struck on the head in Hamilton. No replacement has been sought.
Pakistan were well beaten in their first three ODIs but in the last two, at Hamilton and Wellington, there were signs of noticeable improvement. T20 is their best form of the game — or at least the one in which they are ranked highest — and the prospects of an enticing rubber are there.
On Pakistan's last T20 series here, they beat New Zealand by 16 runs at Eden Park, but were then poleaxed by 10 wickets and 95 runs in Hamilton and Wellington respectively. Their T20 record is strong and at some point, New Zealand's winning run will end.
It could come this week but right now the hosts — with the likes of Glenn Phillips, Tom Bruce and Ben Wheeler freshening things up — are confident, playing good cricket and feel they have an edge on their opponents. Importantly, they also aren't getting ahead of themselves.