Struggling Mills hopes for a turnaround
When India came to New Zealand, the hosts were desperate to get the injured Kyle Mills back. He was their best and most experienced new-ball operator then. With New Zealand needing a draw to keep the Test series alive Mills knows he is part of the squad, perhaps only because of a side strain to Brent Arnell - who was tipped to take his place - and the unavailability of Jacob Oram.
It's been a change of fortunes for Mills who has come under attack from a dominant Indian batting line-up. From nine wickets at 20.33 and an economy-rate of 4.35 in the Chappell-Hadlee Series, he went to four wickets at 57.25 and an economy-rate of 6.36 in as many matches against India. His struggles continued in the Hamilton Test, where he scored a golden duck and gave away 119 runs for Harbhajan Singh's wicket. The only high point for Mills so far has been his fifty in Christchurch earlier this month but his batting is just a bonus.
Mills said he was being targetted by the batsmen and had let his side down with his poor performances. Questions have been raised about his fitness too, but the team management has backed him all through. Time, though, could be running out for Mills.
He will be aware that if he gets picked in the final XI for the Napier Test, he could be playing for his future. "I like to put a performance on the board," Mills said. "It's always much more comfortable and more confident when you've got a few results behind you, and I probably haven't done that in recent Test matches. I thought I bowled well in Dunedin and I bowled all right here against the West Indies.
"I didn't bowl well last week so I know the pressure's on me. Hopefully I can rectify that."
Mills said he couldn't put his finger on what was going wrong. What he would not want repeated is the first ball on the second day of the Hamilton Test. That was perhaps the best Mills has bowled all season, pitching around middle to Gautam Gambhir, tailing in, and heading for middle and leg stumps. But he had over-stepped, and he did so four more times during the innings. Earlier, during the ODI series, he gave away five free-hits. "I've made some slight adjustment in my run-up," Mills said. "My main concern last week was I was bowling no-balls, I was always close to bowling no-balls, and I was thinking about that the whole way on my run-up. I want to eradicate that and focus on my plans for the opposition batsmen.
"It's a really bizarre thing. The first half of the season I don't think I bowled a no-ball. I'm really trying to rectify that. I don't really want to be thinking about that running into Sachin Tendulkar."
Mills knows the problems he creates for his captain if he keeps underperforming. He candidly admits to flaws, both technical and mental, when he talks about New Zealand as a Test team. "In all honesty this has been a problem in New Zealand cricket for 40-50 years, except for the eighties when we had a couple of special players," Mills said. "We've never really excelled as a Test nation. I want to be part of the group that turns that around."
The turnaround, Mills knows, will begin at personal level.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo