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Abhishek Purohit in Pallekele
September 22, 2012
Ross Taylor sat patiently in the back row of seats in the media briefing room at the Pallekele stadium, waiting for Mushfiqur Rahim and Brendon McCullum to finish the post-match press conference of the Bangladesh-New Zealand game. When Taylor's turn to speak finally came, there were exactly two journalists left waiting to hear from the New Zealand captain ahead of the match against Pakistan, after the others had departed en masse. None of the two was from New Zealand. They aren't an immensely followed side.
That doesn't stop them from making a mockery of predictions, especially in global events. One of them was that New Zealand would struggle against Bangladesh's left-arm spinners. A McCullum century later, the focus had shifted to how New Zealand would combat the Pakistan spinners, who bring a lot more variety with them in the form of Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez.
Taylor said New Zealand had the advantage of having already played on the Pallekele pitch, which hadn't exactly helped spin. "Hafeez and Ajmal have got very good records in the last 12-18 months," Taylor said. "We have had an insight into the wicket and how it has played at different times. And the confidence from the way we played [against Bangladesh], we'll hopefully take into that. We prepared really well for the Bangladesh game and I'm sure we'll do the same against Pakistan."
Taylor was asked whether Pallekele, with its high altitude and largely cloudy climate, was better suited to New Zealand compared to the two subcontinent teams in their group. "I'm not sure," Taylor said. "It didn't spin as much as we thought it might. When you play a second time on it, it could probably spin a little bit more. We'll have to wait and see."
Pakistan will be a much harder side to tackle compared to Bangladesh, according to Taylor. The last time these two sides met was also in Pallekele, during the 2011 World Cup, when Taylor heaved six after six into the grass banks beyond deep midwicket in a counter-attacking century after being let off twice by Kamran Akmal early.
"Pakistan are a lot more experienced than Bangladesh. They've played very well in the last 12-18 months. They've got world-class players throughout their team. There are some areas we still need to work on from this match and hopefully we can improve on them come next match. I think there will be a few changes in a few areas as we are coming up against a different side."
One of those changes could be at the top of the order. While James Franklin was involved in a big partnership with McCullum, he wasn't able to attack the bowling consistently. Taylor credited Franklin for batting sensibly, but was non-committal over whether the allrounder would open against Pakistan.
"When you are sent up the order, I think you can go a bit too hard at times. I think he [Franklin] gave himself time. He is at his best when he gives himself a few balls and punches the loose balls and attack when you're needed to. On his day, James can be the attacking one as well. You have got to be flexible and know your role in the team. Will he still open in the next game? We are not sure."
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