New Zealand prepping Taylor for WT20 finishing role
Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill are opening the batting. Colin Munro has come in at No. 3. But it may be Ross Taylor who has made the most significant move in the top order, as New Zealand attempt to fill the firepower void left by Brendon McCullum's effective T20 retirement.
Taylor had moved down one place in the order from his usual haunt at No. 4 in the T20 in Mount Maunganui. He hit 22 not out from 9 balls in that spot, and coach Mike Hesson said that innings augured well, given Taylor's likely batting position in the forthcoming World T20.
"Ross has been asked to play a different role for us - a role that he has done before," Hesson said. "It's a role that he's excited about. He certainly started nicely at the Mount. He'll get some more opportunities to finish the innings for us."
The move will ostensibly allow Corey Anderson to bat with more freedom at No. 4, while Taylor's experience may allow him to better assess and close out New Zealand's innings. The team feels that Anderson's promotion, along with Munro's presence at No. 3, also gives New Zealand explosive power in the top order.
"Our key is trying to replace Brendon - that's going to be a tough ask because he has been so good over so long," Hesson said. "Our job is to try and adapt the rest of the order to try and compensate for that.
"I don't think you can replace Brendon with one player. It's more the combination of the batting line-up. Colin's a player that, if he gets going, can give you a lot of momentum. Corey - we're looking to give him a few more balls instead of getting him to come and finish off for us."
On the bowling front, Hesson said New Zealand would pick three spinners in their 15-man World T20 squad. Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner are likely to feature in that outfit, but New Zealand may dip into their domestic pool for the third spin option. Canterbury legspinner Todd Astle, who has played a Test for New Zealand and has recently been in good domestic form, may be considered for the Pakistan series.
"There's a number of players we'd like to have a look at and Todd Astle is one," Hesson said. "He has certainly performed really well domestically for a decent period of time in all forms of the game. He's a multi-skilled cricketer."
New Zealand are in the process of lining up a T20 international in Dubai to precede the World T20, but as things stand, their only practice in subcontinent conditions will be the two warm-up games immediately prior to the ICC tournament. As New Zealand generally field only one specialist spinner on home tracks, Hesson said the challenge of giving spinners adequate exposure in the four upcoming games as a "balancing act", but believed his team would adapt quickly in India.
"Our spinners have played in India before, so we know how to adapt," he said. "And even every ground in India is different. I think the one advantage we have is that most of the time we've played two [consecutive] games in one venue here [in New Zealand], and the conditions have changed in that second game. Even against Pakistan we'll play on some wickets that turn.
"We know what we're going to face in India - we've been told that the wickets are going to be conducive to high-scoring games. We're not going to play on bunsens. We're going to play on good cricket wickets."
New Zealand cannot lose the T20 series against Sri Lanka, at 1-0 up. Having comfortably won the Tests and ODIs as well, Hesson was pleased at his team's dominance through the tour.
"We've played some pretty good cricket and put Sri Lanka under pressure. They've put us under pressure a little bit in that second Test. I think the way we responded was pleasing. In the one-dayers, bar probably 10 overs with the ball in Nelson when we were outplayed, I think that we've dominated the series. But we also know Sri Lanka are pretty dangerous. We saw that the other day that when you take early wickets the game can change pretty quickly. You get an over of 20 and things change."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando