The narrow defeat against New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup is a thorn in India’s flesh. But as the countdown begins for the World Test Championship title clash, Virat Kohli’s men are girding up their loins to seek revenge from the nice guys of world cricket.
The two champions sides are well-versed with each other’s strengths and weaknesses, having locked horns in a couple of Tests back in February 2020. However, there are a few trump cards in the New Zealand pack that India have not seen much of. The Quint takes a look at five such selections in New Zealand’s WTC squad who might come out of the syllabus and have a defining impact on the game:
Rachin Ravindra is touted as the next big thing in New Zealand’s cricketing circles. A multi-dimensional player who bats high up the order and sends down nagging left-arm spins, Ravindra represented New Zealand colts in the 2018 U-19 World Cup. Two resolute centuries for New Zealand A against the West Indians in November 2020 thrust him into the limelight. He then notched up his maiden Plunket Shield century against Northern Districts in March 2021 while returning from a dislocated shoulder, and backed it up with a six-wicket haul in the very next game against Auckland.
Ravindra got his first taste of international flavour in the practice match against India back in February 2020, where he managed a breezy 34 in the first innings. Cut from the same cloth as of Kiwi legend Daniel Vettori, Rachin also delivered five overs of penny-pinching left-arm orthodox. He is the third finger spinner on the New Zealand side along with Mitchell Santner and Ajaz Patel.
"Rachin's been earmarked as a star of the future since his Under-19 days and we've been really encouraged by the advancement in his game this season, with both bat and ball. He's obviously an opening option but also has the ability to bat in the middle order which combined with his left-arm finger spin make him a great asset to our squad," remarked head coach Gary Stead on Ravindra’s addition to the NZ contingent.
Jacob Duffy, the 26-year-old quick from Otago, arrested figures of 4/33 on his T20I debut against Pakistan this season. Having bowled serious gas to secure 22 wickets in six Plunket Shield matches, Duffy richly deserves the maiden national call-up to the enlarged squad for the WTC. He had reaped the same number of wickets in the season prior to that and was the joint-highest wicket-getter alongside the tireless Neil Wagner.
Duffy’s bowling action is pretty easy on the eye and the fluid biomechanics help him in generating express pace. The stockily-built seamer tests batsmen in probing fourth stump channels or what many call the ‘corridor of uncertainty’. His artistry to get the ball hooping around corners is simply tailor-made for the green carpets of England.
Stead was effusive in his praise of Duffy, the brand new speed merchant on the block. "Jacob's been a consistent performer on the domestic circuit and his ability to swing the ball made him a particularly compelling option with a Dukes ball in English conditions," Stead opined.
Will Young has always had the pedigree of an international player. Young broke into the first-class domain in 2012 but the season which saw him really blossom was 2014-15, wherein he massacred 909 runs at an average of 53.47, including a century and seven fifties. Since then there has never been a calendar year where Young has not gone past 500 runs. Being shouldered with the captaincy of Central Districts brought the best out of him as he crafted a career-best 162 in the title-winning 2017/18 season.
The unflustered right-hander was poised for a Test debut against Bangladesh in March 2019, as a replacement for the injured Kane Williamson, but the match in Christchurch was abandoned due to the terrorist attack. In May 2019, Young was set to be named as a reserve player for New Zealand in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, but an injury to his right labrum at a training camp put a spoke in the wheel.
Despite carrying the niggle, Young blitzed back-to-back centuries for a New Zealand XI against Australia in a one-day warm-up series of three unofficial ODIs in Brisbane in May 2019. He averaged more than 100 in the series with knocks of 60, 130 and 111 against the defending Cricket World Cup champions. Returning to full fitness early in 2020, Young featured in the New Zealand A side against India A while wrapping up the season on a high for Central Districts. The wunderkind finally made his Test debut in the second Test against West Indies, chipping in with a brisk 43 in the second essay.
Given the wagonload of runs he’s scored over the years, it would not be hyperbole to say that Young is a superstar in the making.
An organised left-hander with a penchant for pyrotechnics, Devon Conway is also an efficient wicket-keeper. Born and brought up in South Africa, Conway moved to New Zealand in 2017 in search of better cricketing prospects. With close to 100 first-class games and 70 List A affairs to his credit, Conway was already a battle-hardened stalwart in South Africa's domestic circuit and hence, found it easy to settle into the NZ model.
Conway’s forte is his adaptability across formats. Devon has cut the mustard in the 14 T20Is he’s played for New Zealand, mustering 473 runs at 59.12 and a strike-rate of 151. Earlier this year, he drilled an unbeaten 99 against Australia. His ODI career is yet to gather steam, as he has only featured in three ODIs till date for the BlackCaps. Conway’s proven track record in first-class cricket – 7,130 runs at 47.21 with 18 hundreds and 32 fifties – make him a value pick for the WTC roster.
Stead puts Conway in the same bracket as Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, two of the greatest batsmen the country has ever produced. “Devon looks like he's got all the skills of being an amazing player. We are very fortunate that we've had people in our squad like Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson and you see someone like Devon Conway come along and you think here's another guy who could be in that class," Stead observed.
Predominantly a middle-order batsman, Daryl Mitchell's game revolves around a rock-solid base that expands with the repository of strokes as his innings kicks on. The brawny right-hander registered his first-class debut at the end of 2011-12 season and came to prominence by averaging 54.53 the following year. That led to him booking a berth in the New Zealand A squad in India and Sri Lanka and, while things didn’t go as per plan there, he retaliated with centuries in successive innings in the following domestic campaign. An unscathed 170 against Canterbury prior to the England series in 2019 ensured he was on the selectors' radar and Mitchell was soon slotted in to fill in the imposing boots of de Grandhomme.
The 2018-19 season was his watershed moment in the domestic arena, especially his exploits in the Super Smash which earned him his maiden national call up during the home T20Is against India in February 2019. Mitchell got the captain’s nod in the ultimate two of the five T20Is against India but failed to make it to double digits on both occasions. Although he wasn’t deterred by the odd failures and went on to clobber an audacious hundred against Pakistan, his solitary Test ton in just his fourth Test match.
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