NZ Women fatigued after 'logistical nightmare'
With two wins in two matches, New Zealand couldn't have expected a better start to their Women's World T20 campaign, but a bizarre logistical nightmare has left them travel fatigued.
Even as Australia, based in Nagpur for the last four days, enjoyed an off day with a recovery session followed by pool volleyball, New Zealand had to overcome the after-effects of an arduous twelve-hour travel day - the amount of time it would take to fly more than halfway to India from Auckland. Suzie Bates, their captain, summed it up perfectly by calling it an "India tour in one day."
Following an evening game against Ireland in Mohali on Friday, the team had to travel from Chandigarh to Nagpur, with stopovers at Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, which involved changing of airplanes twice. "I'm proud of the way the team carried themselves, it was tough," Haidee Tiffen, their coach, said. "We left the hotel at 6am in the morning and arrived in Nagpur at 6pm in the evening. I don't know if that was the most efficient or the most economical way that we could have got there. I want to question the logistics.
"In saying that, I've said to the girls right from the start that attitude is a choice and the way the whole team carried themselves yesterday was tremendous. It was challenging but I want to acknowledge our medical staff, who have played a key role in keeping them in the best condition they can be in. Any team would say that it wasn't ideal, but that is the reality of the situation. We have to be vigilant around our recovery, which we always are, but we are going in best prepared as we can be."
Tiffen's concern is a valid one, considering New Zealand would have spent just a little over 24 hours at the venue heading into match day. That they would not get a taste of the conditions at Jamtha despite being in Nagpur since their arrival, has added to the team's sense of discomfort. But Tiffen insisted they weren't using it as an excuse, and her team would be ready to face the three-time champions Australia.
"That's nature of the way, even our schedule at home is pretty tight," she said. "We have had some rain-affected practice games at home, but at the end of the day, the team has to prepare as best as we can in these conditions. Yes, we want more game time, but we are ready for tomorrow.
"The girls are professionals, hitting an extra ball at the nets isn't necessarily going to make them better cricketers. It's just about having that self-belief and visualizing success, which our team is doing well. We're under no illusions, we're up against the world champions, and we have to play at our best to do well against this team."
While New Zealand would bank on the comforting thought of having beaten Australia in a three-match T20I series at home in February, they would also be wary of how they have had a history of letting things slip.
"I think every time I've come with the White Ferns I've felt we have had the team to win this tournament," Bates said. "We haven't got past the finishing line, but with this group, I think we have the experience and in the best space to win it this time around."
Bates' note of caution stems from past experiences. At the 2014 World T20, the side opened their campaign with a win over Australia, before registering two more wins against Ireland and Pakistan. But a meltdown against South Africa in their last league game severely dented their net run-rate, leading to an exit despite dominating the group stages. This time around, however, convincing wins over Ireland and Sri Lanka has given them a significant head start.
"We have talked as a group about being billed as favourites, but as far as we are concerned, each game is being treated as a knockout game," Bates said. "Any team can upset any side, particularly in T20s. We are just going about our business as usual. In terms of preparation, we've played them a lot and are comfortable making plans against them."
Tiffen and Bates also hoped having played in India as recently as July 2015 would count for something. Especially in a tournament where the caravan rolls along quickly, unlike the past editions of the Women's World T20, where the women's teams were based at the same venue till the semi-finals.
"That's part and parcel of it," Tiffen said. "We all bring experience, and gain experience. I've been fortunate to work with a bunch of players who want to improve and get better, ones who want to push themselves till they succeed. I have a management team that is outstanding. As head coach, I have a collective and collaborative approach to our success.
"Suzie and I have played together and share a good working relationship. I've had experience playing in India, as most of our girls have had. It's about sharing our experiences, the good and the bad experiences - things like what we could have done differently - that's the philosophy of our team. We are headed in the right direction."
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo