Secret behind New Zealand success









Gaurav Joshi takes us behind nets to demonstrate how planned practise leads to success

It is a hot afternoon at the PCA stadium in Mohali, behind the PCA member’s stands. New Zealand team is going through rigorous training session ahead of their match against Pakistan. It seems like a routine net session but when you observe closely, the success of New Zealand at the T20 World Cup lies in this meticulous net session.

Coach Mike Hesson, the man who never played even a first-class match, is the catalyst. As the support staff and players get ready for the net session, Hesson walks over to the net bowlers standing in a group and asks “How many are left-handed? Out of the eight bowlers, seven raise their hands. “Good, in the nets please.”

At first it seems strange that all of them are left-handed. Then as you think about the New Zealand opposition, Pakistan, it strikes that pace battery of Pakistan consists of left-arm quickies Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir. Couple of the net bowlers are extremely tall, others are just of average build but they are all left-arm and are asked to bowl at different batsmen from different angles.

Two days later the Aussies arrive in Mohali but there are no demands for left-arm bowlers.

Joining the net bowlers is Mitchell McClenaghan, New Zealand’s own left hand bowler. After bowling for around 15 minutes, McClenaghan walks backs to his mark, has a sip from his water bottle and then pours water over the cricket ball. It seems like an odd act at first but after few balls he does it again. It is clearly a deliberate act.

In fact it is all part of the meticulous plans of Hesson. McClenaghan is doing it because the Kiwis believe there is a fair chance the match could be affected by dew and they feel they should be prepared for all conditions.

For a good hour all the batsmen go through their stereotyped batting sessions. Then in the furthest net from the exit gates, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliot and Luke Ronchi who are padded up, stand and wait for their turn to bat. The bowlers in the nets are McClenaghan, Ish Sodhi and Adam Milne.

Taylor is the first man. He plays a couple of slogs to mid wicket, attempts a paddle scoop and then misses a wide Yorker. That is it. Out he comes and Elliot goes in. He too faces only a handful of balls which he tries to improvise and then comes out. Ronchi plays a couple of booming straight drives and then sprints out of the net.

This pattern is followed twice and then Hesson calls them in. Once again their objective to this net session is to replicate a real time match situation where the batsmen at number five, six and seven might be in a situation they are required to bat for five or six balls only.

Over the next couple of days, Australia, Pakistan and India also have gruelling net sessions but while their batsmen definitely replicate power hitting it is all part of their long net session not a distinctive one, like the Kiwis.

Each country does it differently but the way New Zealand seems to be practising has a more direct approach which replicates match conditions.

Just when you sense Hesson has no other moves left, it comes in the form of fielding drills. Craig McMillan, the batting coach places three fielders, one at point, one at backward point and one at short third man. He then attempts to find the gaps by slicing and powering the ball in between players. The drill is designated to ensure against spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner, a short singles behind point are saved during the game.

It is a unique fielding drill that is designed to cut down the singles and understand that the ball spins off the surface against spinners.

Next day in the match against Pakistan, the ball trickles in that area more than ten times but New Zealand concedes only two runs.

Add to all these unique drills is the fact that New Zealand managed a very short trip to Dubai before the World T20 to get familiarised to conditions on the sub-continent. Perhaps no other team has come up with such perfect strategies. All this has been planned by a man who has never played first-class cricket. It is a lesson to all out there who feel that only men that know cricket inside out are those who have played at an elite level.

At the end of the day even though it is the batsmen who have to perform on the day, bowlers have to find their length and fielders have to hold their catches. As New Zealanders have shown this World cup, planned practice makes perfect.



Short URL: