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New Zealand may play three spinners in opening Test

November 23, 2021 13:36 IST
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'From our perspective, we have to change the way we play but also sticking to some of the key principles of Test cricket. We will try to be competitive for long, long periods of time.'

New Zealand coach Gary Stead hopes left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel and offspinner Will Somerville can pressure India's powerful batting lineup, with all-rounder Mitch Santner also likely to be on hand with left-arm spin.

IMAGE: New Zealand coach Gary Stead hopes left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel and offspinner Will Somerville can pressure India's powerful batting lineup, with all-rounder Mitch Santner also likely to be on hand with left-arm spin. Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand coach Gary Stead has hinted that if the conditions demand, the visiting side may field three specialist spinners against India in the first Test, starting in Kanpur on Thursday.

New Zealand's four-prong pace attack reigned supreme in the last COVID-affected WTC cycle but the Black Caps will be unable to fall back on their traditional strengths in Kanpur and Mumbai.

They will hope left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel and offspinner Will Somerville can pressure India's powerful batting lineup, with all-rounder Mitch Santner also likely to be on hand with left-arm spin.

 

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.

Stead also feels that their two-Test series against India won't feature the kind of tracks that England got in Ahmedabad during their series against Virat Kohli's men.

"You have to look and realise how teams come here often and don't win. That's the enormity of obvious challenge," Stead said during a media conference outlining what playing Test matches in India mean.

"India are a fantastic side. They’ve got world class spinners in their environment here as well.

"(They are) one of the great challenges on the Test calendar. It’s something we haven’t done for a while, we haven't been here since 2016 but we’re certainly looking forward to what's ahead."

 "The traditional way of playing four seamers and one part-time spinner can't be the way to go over here. You may see three spinners playing in this game and that will be decided once we have a look at the surface," Stead said while making it clear that Mumbai-born left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel looks like a sure-shot starter.

Stead said while basic tenets of Test cricket is the same, the approach has to change depending on conditions.

"From our perspective, we have to change the way we play but also sticking to some of the key principles of Test cricket. We will try to be competitive for long, long periods of time."

Asked if he would speak to the groundsmen considering what happened during the last home Tests that India played against England, the coach cheekily replied: "I don't think I really get to have a say in that."

On a serious note, he said that England series was a different ball game due to multiple Test matches at the same venue.

"Look, there's no doubt those were challenging conditions but difference is that we have two Tests at two different venues and they (England) were playing multiple Tests at the same ground (two in Chennai and two in Ahmedabad)."

"We know there will be differences as in Kanpur you will have black clay and in Wankhede, you will have red clay. These are certain adaptations that we have to make," the coach explained.

Stead wasn't too fussy about lack of practice games as even India hasn't played Tests of late since they came from England.

"In this COVID world, it is difficult to get practice games but India is also coming on the back of T20s and is on a similar boat to what we are."

That's the reason why Boult's absence won't be a factor as even India would be missing regular skipper Virat Kohli (first Test) along with Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, who have been rested for both games due to workload management.

Stead acknowledged New Zealand would need to manage some players carefully after their long stint on the road but said there was little time to dwell on things.

"In two weeks we’ll be on a plane home, things will happen really quickly for us," he said. "So it’s really important that we get focused on the job and the challenge that’s in front of us."

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