The Black Caps are a bit on guard in the test series against India with players who have had a mixed build-up.
Veteran batsman Ross Taylor is one of the slightly cautious who has not played a competitive game in over five months.
Taylor’s last Test round was against India when he hit the winning races as New Zealand took the preliminary Test Championship in England in June.
He was not part of the T20 World Cup squad, and Taylor says it has been a challenge to try to prepare for the spin-friendly courses on the subcontinent.
“A little different not to have net bowlers (local Indian players) come in. So we have faced our bowlers in preparation.
“Everyone has been queuing to meet the spinners, they have bowled many overs haha. Where you usually have 10 to 15 net bowlers of spin to practice on. So a little different, but that’s what it is and it’s an interesting challenge.”
New Zealand open their World Test Championship defense with a sense of fatigue after a long road trip and the emotional downturn at the T20 World Cup.
Whitewashed 3-0 by India in a T20 series on the heels of their World Cup final defeat to Australia, the ‘Black Caps’ have lost that winning feeling as they enter the first Test in Kanpur on Thursday against an opponent set for revenge.
New Zealand may have golden memories of beating India at Southampton to claim the inaugural WTC trophy in June, but the neutral territory of the Rose Bowl can hardly seem further away.
Without pace spearhead Trent Boult and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme, New Zealand will face the same opponents where they have never won a Test series let alone a test since the 1988/89 tour.
“You realize the huge challenge that awaits,” head coach Gary Stead said.
“India is a fantastic site. They also have world-class spinners in their environment here.
“(They are) one of the big challenges on the test calendar. It’s something we have not done in a while, we have not been here since 2016, but we are certainly looking forward to what lies ahead.”
New Zealand’s four-legged attack reigned supreme in the last COVID-hit WTC cycle, but the Black Caps will not be able to fall back on their traditional forces in Kanpur and Mumbai.
They will hope that left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel and off-spinner Will Somerville can push India’s powerful batting lineup, with all-rounder Mitch Santner likely to be on hand with left-arm spin as well.
Stead acknowledged that New Zealand would have to steer some players carefully after their long stay on the road, but said there was little time to dwell on things.
“In two weeks we’re on a plane home, things will happen really fast for us,” he said. “So it’s really important that we get focus on the job and the challenge that lies ahead of us.”
Spinner Ajaz Patel believes their build has been as thorough as it can be given the circumstances, though he admits they are heading into a little bit of the unknown.
“Obviously it’s been a busy time with the T20s and stuff. We’ve been moving quite a bit, but at the same time we’ve had plenty of time to train and acclimatize and get used to the conditions. So hopefully we’ve worked hard enough. “
The first test starts in Kanpur on Thursday afternoon and Patel said the team’s attention has turned to the match.
“Focuses on the game and the plans and the situations we are going to face. Also the surface. The biggest thing is to be able to see the surface (Kanpur track) and get an understanding of what it will offer. For us.
“All the preparation is done, and now the exciting part is playing cricket.”
Black Caps bowling coach Shane Jurgensen has had a hectic year when he went to India not long after the disappointment of losing the T20 World Cup final.
He says there has been a lot of work for the coaches as they try to get the team ready for the two Test series, which come amid New Zealand’s 3-0 defeat in the T20 series in India.
“It has been a great week for the support staff. In addition to our T20 series here, we have had great days to support the test players and their preparation in the morning.
“We’ve been very busy preparing those guys and they all look in good shape. I’m excited about this series, back in test cricket again.”
“Without a doubt it will be a tough challenge against India in their home relationship. No doubt the wickets will turn around a bit.
“For us it’s a great opportunity, we have an experienced group, the boys have played really good test cricket for a long time, we have known about this series and they have worked as hard as they can and as specifically as they can, and they really looking forward to fighting India in their own country. “
-RNZ / Reuters