Jeet Raval's desire to better himself as a test cricketer has led back to the land of his birth.

The Black Caps opener has proved a resolute grafter in the New Zealand XI since debuting in November 2016.

In 11 matches, he averages 38.11, a quality mark by this country's opening standards, with six half-centuries from 18 innings.

However, that masked an area of his game which Raval believed needed improvement. Cue a four-week journey to India to immerse himself against spin.


Raval hails from Ahmedabad but got in touch with a few friends - including Auckland team-mate Tarun Nethula - who sorted him a deal to play and train in Hyderabad. Runs were scarce in a couple of midweek three-day matches for the Dayanand club but he says the experience was invaluable.

"They said I'd be eligible to play, so I put a proposal forward to New Zealand Cricket and they were supportive. That was the reasoning behind the trip.

"Being in New Zealand as an opener, I don't get to face a lot of spin, so I wanted to explore some options playing it in subcontinental conditions, especially with the next tour coming up [against Pakistan] in the UAE.

"The value in speaking to local cricketers helps you realise you need a different skill set to succeed over there. Watching how they go about their cricket is fascinating. If I had the chance again, I'd do it for longer."

Unlike those of a more T20 persuasion, a first-class specialist such as Raval tends to endure more droughts in his playing calendar.

The test championship may alleviate that situation from next year but New Zealand have had no winter test series since the 29-year-old debuted.

Last summer, there was even a 100-day hiatus between the West Indies and England series. Added to that is a prune to the Plunket Shield from 10 to eight rounds next season under the new Master Agreement.

Raval completed the first of five chartered accounting exam papers in his down time and built his base fitness with Black Caps strength and conditioning coach Chris Donaldson.

Jeet Raval has been a steady influence on New Zealand's test batting line-up since his November 2016 debut. Photo /
Jeet Raval has been a steady influence on New Zealand's test batting line-up since his November 2016 debut. Photo /

However, his cricket diet was limited. The left-hander is set to join English county Yorkshire as injury cover for Black Caps captain Kane Williamson, who is struggling with a bruised finger on his left hand.

Raval will be available to play in the team's final four County Championship fixtures - ideal high level exposure ahead of New Zealand A's two first-class matches against Pakistan A in the UAE during October.

Raval says the return to India was a homecoming, of sorts.

"I was familiar with the culture and lifestyle, but in terms of the cricket, I felt like I was out of my comfort zone.

"I was getting out five to six times each training session and these young teenage spinners were laughing at me, thinking 'what's this guy doing?' But I enjoyed the challenge and kept an open mind about wanting to learn. If you have that, I believe you'll come out a better player.

"These guys train five to six hours a day and dedicate their whole lives to cricket. They're probably six to seven years ahead of our cricketers in terms of maturity."

Raval describes how he thinks a deficiency against the turning ball might arise in New Zealand.

"Because the ball doesn't spin as much, we tend to block, block, block, then hit a six or a four as a get-out-of-jail shot.

"In India, it's more about rotating the strike, reading the length as soon as the ball is released, then making a decision, moving the feet and manoeuvring the ball into gaps.

"It's not about the big shots, it's about finding a rhythm and an efficiency to get off strike because it's harder for a spinner if they're not allowed to settle."

Raval used his wrists more, too.

"There was one drill where the coach placed seven or eight cones around me.

"He would throw a ball and say hit it to No 1 or No 5, etc. It was on a turning track, yet without even realising it, I started using my hands to find the gaps."

New Zealand play Pakistan in three tests, starting late November.