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Feature

Mitchell banking on his adaptability to settle in on No. 4 spot

He is slotted ahead of Latham and isn't fussed about the low returns so far

Deivarayan Muthu
23-Jan-2023
Daryl Mitchell's departure triggered a mini-collapse, Pakistan vs New Zealand, 3rd ODI, Karachi, Jan 13 2023

Daryl Mitchell has batted at No. 4 in ODIs only six times so far  •  Associated Press

Daryl Mitchell prides himself on being an adaptable player. Ahead of the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE, head coach Gary Stead had so much faith in his adaptability that he bumped him up to the opening slot along with Martin Guptill after Mitchell had originally been picked in the side as a finisher. In the World Cup semi-final against England in Abu Dhabi, Mitchell was particularly slow off the blocks in the powerplay, but he ramped up the pace to seal a famous victory for New Zealand.
Now, ahead of this year's ODI World Cup, Mitchell has been given a new role - a promotion to No. 4 ahead of Tom Latham. Mitchell has batted at the spot six times - five of which have come in Pakistan and India - managing only 93 runs at an average of 15.50 and strike rate of 72.09. But he isn't fussed about the low returns and backs himself to slot into the new role.
"I'm just proud to be representing New Zealand in whatever position I bat in," Mitchell said on the eve of the third ODI in Indore. "If you've followed my career, you can see that I've batted in many positions across all three formats. So, I'm just doing my job; [there are] some good days and bad days. That's the nature of the game we play and yeah really looking forward to tomorrow, as a group, to come out and put in a good performance and walk away with a win in the ODI series."
Having also batted at different positions for his domestic teams - Northern Districts and Canterbury - Mitchell is ready do any job for New Zealand in ODI World Cup in India later this year. He is also pushing his case as a seam-bowling allrounder in the absence of Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme who have become free agents. In the first ODI in Hyderabad, Mitchell was New Zealand's most successful bowler with figures of 2 for 30 in his five overs when India amassed 349.
"For me, it's something that I guess as a skillset is to adapt to different numbers in the line-up as well as different situations and I'm a competitor at heart," he said. "That's why I play the game and I love competing to try and win those moments. That's what drives me whether I open the batting or batting at No. 3, 4, 5 or 6. For me, that doesn't worry me and it's about getting stuck in and being really proud to represent the country, which is something I dreamt of doing since I was a little kid. And I'm very fortunate to be in this position. I do it with a smile on my face, and puff my chest out, and try and take them on."
Mitchell's current role at No. 4 has often left him starting against spin. Though he has been dismissed by spinners four times in his last five ODI innings in the subcontinent, Mitchell is still one of the better players of spin in the New Zealand line-up. He uses his long reach to meet the pitch of the ball and is particularly strong at hitting down the ground.
"I'm 31 years of age now and [I] know how my game works and how I want to go about the middle phases of one-day cricket [against spin]," Mitchell said. "Always in Test cricket, you do face a lot of spin, so yeah I'm comfortable with how I go about my game and again, it's about trying to win little moments for the team and hopefully that means we can win games of cricket."
The absence of the seniors - Kane Williamson, Trent Boult and Tim Southee - for the ongoing series in India as well as the five ODIs in April-May in Pakistan, which will clash with IPL 2023 - will give New Zealand an opportunity to test out different combinations ahead of the ODI World Cup. Williamson (Gujarat Titans), Boult (Rajasthan Royals) and Southee (Kolkata Knight Riders) are set to be handed NOCs to feature in the entire IPL 2023.
"I think everyone in this room knows that games of cricket like the other day [in Raipur] happen," Mitchell said. "It's the nature of the game. Yeah, you lose the toss and get put in on a slightly challenging surface and you're five down for not many. Us as a group, we're pretty level and it's something we pride ourselves on. The group is really excited about tomorrow and about not having Tim and Kane here, I think it's a great opportunity for our group to test out some new formations and different balances, and give different guys experience over here in India that a lot of us haven't had."

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo