India in New Zealand 2013-14 January 18, 2014

New Zealand 'leaning' towards four-pacer attack - McCullum


Brendon McCullum is considering playing four fast bowlers in the ODI series opener against India in Napier. The New Zealand captain expects the McLean Park pitch to be fast and bouncy, and said he wanted to "unleash a bit of pace" early at the visitors, who were dismissed for 217 and 146 in Johannesburg and Durban by Dale Steyn and Co recently.

"I guess we are leaning towards it [playing four quicks] at this stage," McCullum said. "Obviously we'll see how everyone pulls up through training as well, but I think it will be quite nice to unleash a bit of pace in this opening game and then try and be aggressive and as hostile as we can with ball in hand."

When asked if New Zealand were keen to "get in the face" of the Indians, McCullum was quick to clarify that he was keen to restrict the aggression to only with the ball. "We are incredibly respectful of how good this team is that we are coming up against. India have obviously performed well for a long period of time and they have got an outstanding batting line-up in particular. We know it's a huge challenge for us.

"The good thing from our point of view is we are playing at home and in conditions that we are familiar with and we think we are starting to play some decent cricket as well as a side. There certainly is no directive in terms of trying to take these guys on from a verbal point of view. It's more about making sure we play good cricket and try and expose some weaknesses, if there are any, in their batting line-up, and obviously try and build some momentum early in this series - five games in 12 days, if you can get early momentum, it is certainly going to help."

When asked about India's problems against Steyn, McCullum, while acknowledging the fast bowler's prowess, pointed out that it hadn't been all gloom for the visitors in South Africa. "Dale Steyn is a world-class bowler and has been for a number of years. He has been successful against pretty much everyone in world cricket. We haven't got the bowlers at that level yet - who knows what will happen in a couple of years if we keep developing them - but at this stage, we are still learning a little bit about some of our bowlers.

"In terms of the Indians and how they responded in South Africa, I think they still played pretty good cricket at times. They are not ranked where they are for no reason. They are obviously successful and excellent players. We are very respectful of them. It doesn't mean we don't think we have not got areas where we can attack them but we are very respectful of how good these guys are and know that for us to win this series, we have to play our best cricket of the summer."

New Zealand have included young fast bowler Adam Milne in the squad, and while he's still developing, he can generate extreme pace, upwards of 150 kph. McCullum said New Zealand would go for Milne on quicker surfaces, and would not mind playing him alongside the aggressive Mitchell McClenaghan, despite the possibility of conceding additional runs in the quest for pace and wickets.

"If we get a fast wicket, Milne will play. Still mindful of the fact that he is young in terms of the experience that he has got and obviously bowling at the pace at which he does as well, that can bring about injuries. We have to make sure we use him when the conditions suit him best.

"We have got other options as well. We have got [Kyle] Mills and [Tim] Southee who are more than capable of bowling with the new ball and obviously Milne can bounce between the new ball and first change. We just have to work out the right balance and play to the strengths of those guys.

"I think there is room for all of them. It is all about trying to get the right approach for the right ground. I think with both of those guys [Milne and McClenaghan] playing, you are clearly going in with an aggressive bowling line-up. So you just got to be aware of that in terms of the plans you are setting and how you are going to look to try and put them into the jigsaw in terms of the 50 overs."

While all four fast bowlers could play in Napier, it is not likely to become a trend for the rest of the series, as McCullum was also mindful of managing their workloads. "It is difficult but I guess the realisation also is that they can't all play every game. We have already played a lot of cricket this summer and we have got a lot more to come. We have just got to be mindful of making sure that the pace attack we do put out is fit and ready to go. That will see all four of them get some opportunities during the series."

In contrast to New Zealand's pace, India usually prefer playing two spinners in Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin in ODIs. McCullum was hopeful of targetting India's slow bowlers. "They are accustomed to playing on slower, turning tracks and I am hopeful they are not going to get that over here over the next month or so. But they rely quite a lot on their spinners and that's an area we might be able to look to expose them, though they are also very good bowlers. We have got to feel it out as the series develops and make sure that we are at the top of our game."

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hamish on January 19, 2014, 6:00 GMT

    Great interview. Its nice to hear McCullum speaking sense for a change without all the extra jargon. We are starting to build a bit of depth to our various squads and although I had my doubts about Hesson/McCullum, they have done a really good job so far. This series is a good chance for us to try and build some consistency.

  • Aidan on January 19, 2014, 0:21 GMT

    India have often struggled touring NZ. In the past they haven't handled green top pitches but in recent times the pitches have favoured batsmen which is India's strength. Sadly I don't think Milne has the control to do well at this level yet. Just because he can bowl fast doesn't make him the next Shane Bond. Maybe one day he'll be up to it.

  • Amit on January 19, 2014, 0:06 GMT

    There are few in Indian side who are suspects against fast/short pitch bowling...Raina and Rohit Sharma are the two who are prone to blink against fast/short pitch bowling.

  • sam on January 19, 2014, 0:05 GMT

    Yes NZ should go with all out pace and incl. 4 pacers. NZ has got decent pace attack and they dont have quality of Mitch,Steyn are far better than Ind's. The young quick Milne should target throats of Ind bats @150 clicks and expose them like SA did .

  • Kah on January 18, 2014, 21:29 GMT

    Dhoni should play Bhuvi, Jadeja, Umesh/Aaron and Shami with 7 regular batsman. Please dont play the useless and toothless zaheer khan, otherwise Ryder will get a start and we will be looking to chase like 380. Ryder and Taylor, particularly are very dangerous and are the best batsman for pace bowling.

  • Jay on January 18, 2014, 20:40 GMT

    I am sure deep inside his mind McCullum knows how strong India are. India have several match winners while NZ have 1 or 2 players. They can unleash pace as much as they want, India have the players to counter that. They had a good tour of SA where they faced much better pace bowlers in Steyn, Morkel and Philander on lively surfaces. India should win easily. NZ could surprise them with one victory at some stage though. The test series could also be a one sided affair. It's good to hear McCullum say they wish to 'learn' from India. I think it all has to do with MCullum's participation in the IPL where he has friends within the Indian camp. Both teams respect each other and I am sure this will be a good series to watch.

  • Kalyan on January 18, 2014, 20:18 GMT

    Last time India toured NZ, the kiwis tried their best not to upset BCCI and had provided much friendlier surfaces. I think this trend will continue. If you think the flat tracks in SA test series were a coincidence think again.

    You dont want the rich BCCI to think twice abt touring a country which might affect their rankings.

  • Muthuvel on January 18, 2014, 20:17 GMT

    it should not be flat batting tracks neither should it be poor green pitches like the ones in 2001, it should be good wicket with some green, that way both teams can play to their strengths and the best one on the day will win. NZ is a great little country and India is a very large culture..nice david vs golaith would be lots of fun to watch..

  • Ashok on January 18, 2014, 19:33 GMT

    Assume NZ "unleashes 4 pace bowlers at the Indian batsmen". None of these 4 are in the class of Steyn or Morkel in Wkt. taking ability. So India can get 6 runs/over off these 4 -i.e., 240 in 40 overs. The last 10 overs by the 5th bowler can give at least 70 to reach a 310 total. Question: Can NZ batting get this total? NZ is wrongly assuming that Indian seamers are useless. Shami has been a surprise as was Ishant, in pace friendly SA. Aaron can reinforce with his 145 KPH darts. Jadeja did well even on SA pitches. So at least these 4 bowlers will be on the hunt for NZ scalps! The 5th bowler may be Ashwin or Raina may do off spinners role. Suddenly Indian bowling does not look that weak! How will NZ counter even on smaller boundary non-Oval grounds with their "Iffy" & sometimes unreliable batting? I think if Dhoni plays his cards right with correct balanced XI + focuses on the off side field, NZ will find it harder than "walk in the park" batting against the Indian bowling! Go India!

  • Srinivas on January 18, 2014, 17:12 GMT

    McCullum has won a fan here with his respectful words. Thanks Mac for not being boorish like the SA players. This series will be a good learning curve for the Kiwi players in dealing with a top team like India. The question is not whether India will win but how well the Kiwis can limit the damage and stay away from massive defeats. India will win the series. But goodluck to Kiwis. They are nice blokes and I wouldn't be sad if such nice blokes can win a game or two against us. Goodluck to both teams.

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