Hesson: Black Caps batsmen can't afford to sit back and wait for bad balls from India's bowlers.
Any New Zealand batsmen twitchy at the prospect of coping with Indian spin during the ODI series starting in Mumbai tomorrow night may have had a pointer thrown to them by two of their own this week.
New Zealand had two warmup games against President XI combinations this week. They lost the first by 30 runs - and lost luckless legspinner Todd Astle to a groin injury in the process - but produced a much better effort at the Brabourne Stadium on Thursday night to win by 33 runs.
No less than 11 bowlers were used during the Indian innings so that tells a tale about the nature of the match, but even so the 166-run stand between Ross Taylor and Tom Latham, which helped lift New Zealand to 343 for nine, was an eye catcher.
Taylor made 102 off 82 balls; Latham hit 108 off 97. Both are experienced in Indian conditions and went about their work impressively.
The Indian attack was handy and included two spinners, left armer Shahbaz Nadeem and legspinner Karn Sharma, who had wrought havoc on the New Zealand A batting in their two four-day fixtures late last month, taking 30 of the 40 wickets between them.
"I thought Ross played beautifully. He was as busy and proactive as I've seen for a long time," coach Mike Hesson said yesterday.
"Both Ross and Tom put it back on the bowlers, using their feet and lapping and didn't allow them to settle. It was an outstanding partnership."
The significance of the stand is this: Hesson has said batsmen can't sit back and wait for bad balls from India's spinners, don't fret over the mystery aspect of dealing with India's spinners in their own conditions, and batsman must back themselves.
"You've got to score off their good balls. You can't sit there and wait for something to happen," Hesson added.
A year ago, New Zealand were sitting at 2-2 in their five-game ODI series in India going into the decider, and had a chance for a first bilateral series win in India. They were flattened for 79 in the clutch match in Visakhapatnam, an outcome which still sits leaves captain Kane Williamson frustrated.
"We all look back and thought it was a missed opportunity, but we were also proud we'd got ourselves into that position and by playing really good cricket," Hesson said.
"I think [that series margin] has a lot of relevance in terms of the confidence we'd have got out of that series. Not many teams come here and win any games. To take it to the final match certainly showed we played some damn good cricket."
Bustling lefthander Colin Munro is likely to get first dibs on the opening spot alongside Martin Guptill having opened in both warmup games, for a pair of 26s, but George Worker is battling a niggling hamstring strain which is likely to remove any debate about the position.
Hesson labelled the two warmup games "exceptional" for his team in terms of shaking out cobwebs and getting used to running around in the field in serious heat. Mumbai has evidently been hotter than usual at this time of year.
But he believes the days of blithely turning up and expecting a cliched set of conditions wherever they go in India are long gone. Mumbai, for example, has had an unusual amount of rain for this period, therefore expect more grass on the pitch tomorrow.
"They use different types of clay, you're under lights at some places so you have dew, there's a lot of variables to take into consideration. Surfaces are not as flat as they have been in the past.
"We've got to adapt, just like India do and can't be too pre-conceived. Everywhere offers something different."
•The first of three ODIs against India starts at 9pm tomorrow in Mumbai, with the other two games in Pune and Kanpur next Wednesday and Sunday.
•New Zealand were 2-2 in their last ODI series in India in October last year before being rolled for 79 in the decider.
•This series is followed by three T20s after which New Zealand prepare for a busy home international summer, starting on December 1 with the first test against the West Indies in Wellington.