Daniel Vettori didn't have a lot to smile about yesterday, but was hoping to start afresh with the two Twenty20s against Sri Lanka after the defeats in the Test matches. Though New Zealand were outclassed in both Tests, there is still plenty of limited-overs cricket for them before returning home - the two Twenty20s preceding the tri-series, also featuring India, with the Champions Trophy in South Africa to follow.
This New Zealand side is better suited to one-day cricket, having won six and drawn one of their last eight series, including come-from-behind wins over England and West Indies. However, they have struggled in one-dayers in Sri Lanka, winning ten of 27 games. Vettori is hopeful of improving that record.
"I'd say we've been stronger in the limited-overs format, definitely," he said. "It suits a few of our guys better. The experiences out here will have strengthened a few of the players for the limited-overs series There's no doubt this is a good group of batsmen and I have high hopes of them."
New Zealand have some personnel changes, such as fast bowlers Kyle Mills, Shane Bond and Ian Butler and relative rookies Brendon Diamanti and Neil Broom, but the core group stays the same. "There's an air of confidence about the team when it comes to this format," said Vettori, "And I hope we'll see a turnaround in our limited-overs performance. We need to win these games as we build up to the Champions Trophy. It's a short and sharp tournament and you need to hit it running."
New Zealand will welcome back Bond, who, Vettori confirmed, will mark his international return in Wednesday's first Twenty20. Bond's departure to the ICL in 2008 was as significant as when Richard Hadlee stepped down in 1990, and while Vettori was quick to allow Bond some breathing room, he knew how important this man was.
"I don't want to put too much pressure on the guy because I can see it building from a distance," Vettori said. "People are viewing him as a sort of saviour to some recent woes but I think we need to let Shane relax and build his way back into the team." Bond will be a vital player for New Zealand in the 50-over games. In 67 ODIs he has taken 125 wickets at the phenomenal average of 19.32.
New Zealand cricket fans have accepted, if reluctantly, that their team can seriously compete in one-day and Twent20 cricket, because from the depths of No. 7 in the ICC Test rankings there's not much room for optimism. Though his immediate aim was to gee this team up for the limited-overs fixtures, Vettori clearly had an eye on the home Tests against Pakistan in November. The two Tests in Sri Lanka were a thorough disappointment and Vettori, when he sits down with the selection panel on returning, will have his plate full. New Zealand does not boast a reservoir of second-tier players presenting a convincing case for selection and Vettori wanted to stick with these players ahead of Pakistan's visit.
"We've learned a lot. Our guys have faced some unorthodox bowlers that they don't get back home, so for them to face that sort of bowling and to be successful, at times, is a very good experience," he said. "They need to take that into the next Test series we face, against [Saaed] Ajmal and [Danish] Kaneria, who are difficult spin bowlers. The experience builds confidence."