Although New Zealand are coming out of cricketing hibernation – they last played as a team in March – the batting coach Craig McMillan believes they’d have a couple of things going for them when they play the top-ranked Pakistan in the first of three T20Is on Wednesday. First – a squad that has experience playing franchise T20s – and second – good memories of the last time they were in the UAE, when they earned a share of the Test and T20I trophies before going on to win the ODIs 3-2.
“We’ve had a lot of players playing in different franchise competitions around the world from the CPL to the IPL to the NatWest over in England,” McMillan said. “So we’ve got a fair bit of experience. There’s nothing better than playing in those competitions. We know Pakistan are a very strong side. No. 1 in the world at the moment. Very hard to beat in home conditions. But we had a successful last tour here in 2014 and we’ve got a lot of the guys back from that trip and it’s something we’re looking forward to.”
Out of the squad that New Zealand have picked for this tour, Kane Williamson captained Sunrisers Hyderabad into the IPL playoffs earlier this year. Colin Munro was the highest run-getter in the Caribbean Premier League 2018. Ross Taylor was also a part of that tournament, playing for Jamaica Tallawahs. Ish Sodhi had a run with Nottinghamshire in the T20 Blast. Tim Southee and Colin de Grandhomme had stints under Virat Kohli at the Royal Challengers Bangalore camp.
Regardless of how New Zealand’s players have managed to stay match-fit, McMillan wanted them to be aware of their surroundings. Pitches in the UAE have seen a lot of cricket recently and are normally rather slow. Over the last three years, the average run-rate in a T20I played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi – where all the matches will take place – has been 7.22.
“Scores are a little bit lower over here in the conditions, which is something that we’ll have to talk about as a team,” McMillan said. “In New Zealand and in some other countries, you’re looking to score 170-180 but over here 150 has been a winning score so we might have to tailor our gameplan around that.”
The New Zealand A team, which has been in the country since the start of October, would have picked up on that as well. They were bowled out for 65 in the first unofficial T20I against Pakistan A, but then in the next two matches, with the benefit of batting second, they secured comfortable victories chasing 143 and 157.
Three players from that squad will be picked in the senior side and Glenn Phillips has made a strong case for himself, scoring back-to-back half-centuries. With Martin Guptill out of the tour due to a calf injury, the 21-year old opener from Auckland, who has also spent time in the CPL playing for the Tallawahs, stands a good chance of making it through.
To further prepare them for the series, New Zealand have been training at night to simulate the exact conditions they’ll face in the T20Is against Pakistan. “We’re mixing it up,” McMillan said. “A lot of them have come from four-day, red-ball cricket so getting back into white-ball and T20 especially [is hard]. So throwing different scenarios at them, putting them under pressure, seeing how they react and how they find a way to win the game.
“There’s different challenges for batsmen and bowlers in hot conditions and that’s one of the things the guys have to get right when they’re on the field, in terms of fluid intake, making sure they’ve got those energy levels up, because it does sap it out of you when it’s 35-40 C. That’s why it’s important just to get out, get them sweating, get them working in the field so that come Wednesday night we’re ready to rock and roll.”