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August 8, 2009
Saqlain Mushtaq, the former Pakistan and Surrey offspinner, has been appointed as spin consultant by New Zealand Cricket (NZC) for the next 12 months. Saqlain's first assignment will be New Zealand's six-week tour of Sri Lanka.
"New Zealand Cricket has an agreement with Saqlain Mushtaq who will work with the Blackcaps over the next 12 months," Stephen Hill, the NZC spokesperson said. "His experience as a spin bowler is considered to be of significant assistance."
In addition to working with the spinners, Saqlain will divulge his vast knowledge of playing in the subcontinent to the New Zealand batsmen, many of whom have never played in this part of the world. "He will be working with both our bowlers and batsmen, usually for a few days at a time during the team's international series over that period," Hill said.
Saqlain initially worked with the team at a training session in Derby, during the ICC World Twenty20, helping the team in preparation for its league game against Sri Lanka.
Saqlain said he was invited by New Zealand coach Andy Moles to join the team during the tournament. "He wanted me to help the batsmen play spinners like Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] and [Ajantha] Mendis," Saqlain told Cricinfo in London, before taking off to Sri Lanka. He also had a chat with Daniel Vettori and the other spinners on spin bowling, and discussed the thought process and preparation a spinner goes through. After that NZC got in touch with his agent Eddie Tolchard to broker a long-term relationship.
Saqlain, once a prolific offspinner with 496 victims in both Test and ODI versions, played his last Test for Pakistan in 2004, and was pushed out of contention once the selectors favoured the allround skills of Shoaib Malik. Recently his decision to join the ICL forced him to quit Surrey and brought an end to his 11-year stint in the English domestic circuit.
Saqlain's foremost advice to New Zealand bowlers before the Sri Lanka tour is that bowling in the subcontinent is a "mental battle". To be on top of the opponent, Saqlain said the bowlers would need to "understand" and "control" their skills. He said the main reason he was brought on board was to help New Zealand neuter the danger posed by Murali and Mendis.
During his June visit to the team Saqlain had already pointed out the flaw most batsmen commit when facing the doosra. "I watched the [New Zealand] batsmen in the nets and told them where exactly they committed the mistake. They were not picking the ball at the point of release," Saqlain said. He told them they could still pick it in the air even if it was a bit late. If they couldn't do that, too, then they could read it off the pitch after the ball landed but that, according to Saqlain, is playing too late and makes the batsman vulnerable.
"So I bowled them some doosras and asked to watch my hand while I bowled with tennis balls to make them understand how the ball would behave if someone like Mendis bowled it."
Saqlain plans to bolster the New Zealand spin attack since he believes slow bowlers will be a dominant force on the slower and flatter pitches in Sri Lanka. "Spinners would play a prominent role … they would have a say in nearly 80% of a game," he said, adding that offering tips to the team's main spinners Vettori and Jeetan Patel regarding the doosra would not be a priority.
"My role would be to speak about how to attack the batsmen in different situations. We have to be careful as to what needs to be learned and taught."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
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