A flexible approach to negate the challenges thrown by different pitches and conditions will remain crucial to New Zealand's success during their upcoming limited-overs tour of India. Such tactical fluidity, according to captain Kane Williamson, was the major takeaway for his team from the 3-2 defeat in the ODI series against India last year.
While the general perception is that a limited-overs series in India invariably features good batting surfaces, a 300-plus total hasn't always been a given. In fact, the recent five ODIs against Australia saw only one game that produced totals in excess of 300. Also, New Zealand's tour of India last year didn't produce even one such game. Williamson pointed to the varied nature of surfaces across India, and said it was hard to predict what each venue would offer. He felt the two practice games ahead of the first ODI on October 22 would not only help the team come to grips with the pitches but also the climate.
"The thing with the wickets over here is they vary so much within the country," Williamson told reporters in Mumbai on Sunday. "So, when you say you come into India to play, you are required to adapt. From ground to ground you are never quite sure of the surface that you are going to get.
"Yeah, naturally spin in this part of the world is always a key factor, one that you know you have to come up against majority of the overs. But, I think coming over here, you play on some very, very good surfaces and you play on some of the more challenging [ones which] spin a lot more. In our last series, we saw glimpses of a variety of surfaces where, at times, we have seen the winning score being 250. Being flexible with your approach, I think, is very important. In our last series, there were those mid-200 scores, you had dew factor, you had a number of things that came into it. So, it is important that you have flexibility, adapt well. I think that's very important when you are coming over here playing any format.
"I guess part of the adapting is the conditions and the surface but also the climate that you are in. So, it is nice to be here a few days early and get guys used to the heat and the humidity. Like I said, a number of guys have had experiences over here which is always helpful, but saying that we still want to prepare well."
During their visit last year, New Zealand were severely hurt by the legspin of Amit Mishra, who finished with 15 wickets from the five ODIs. This time they are confronted with a pair of wristspinners - Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal - both in fine wicket-taking form. Coach Mike Hesson said while each individual had a different method of tackling the spinners, it was important to not sweat over the "mystery" element.
"You know a number of players have faced Kuldeep during the IPL," Hesson said. "Some have played [in] the same team, so there is enough information-sharing going out there. But, it's very much an individual thing. Some guys watch the hand, some guys look at the wrist, some guys read off the pitch, some guys see it in the air. Everybody is a little bit different, so I don't think it's one-size-fits-all.
"We do know that wristspinners also provide scoring opportunities, so we have got to make sure that we aren't necessarily jumping at shadows and we are actually playing the ball rather than thinking of them as too much of a mystery spinner."
New Zealand recently added six members to their squad - Glenn Phillips, Todd Astle, Colin Munro, Matt Henry, George Worker and Henry Nicholls - from the A team that played against India A recently. Even as the results didn't go their way - New Zealand A lost both the unofficial Test series and the limited-overs fixtures - Williamson acknowledged that the exposure was "fantastic".
"It's nice for guys to get that exposure and most of those guys haven't experienced this part of the world before, so it is a very important part of our High Performance where we are getting guys with a wider squad exposure to different conditions, different levels of cricket which we are starting to see now. The results haven't been what we would have liked, you always want to do better. But, it's a great place to start," he said.
"Obviously, [this is] a short tour and we have had some time off which has been nice. The guys are here about 12 days earlier before our first ODI which is great for our preparation coming into it. And, the guys are excited as well to get into this series. India have been playing plenty of cricket, and I have been following the Australian series fairly closely and it has been a good competition. It's important for us to not take too much baggage from historical results and obviously get up for the challenge. It's going to be a tough challenge, but one the guys are looking forward to."
New Zealand will play the three ODIs in Mumbai, Pune and Kanpur followed by a three-match T20I series in Delhi, Rajkot and Thiruvananthapuram.