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Being 'aggressive' the way to go for Santner in spinning conditions

Having played a holding role on grassy surfaces in NZ, Santner has made adjustments to be successful in India

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
09-Oct-2023
You thought it was a dream night out with the ball for Mitchell Santner. He picked up only his second ODI five-for to floor Netherlands, his spell of 5 for 59 along with his cameo 17-ball 36 at No. 8 earned him the Player of the Match.
But in all honestly, Santner revealed he'd bowled much better against England in Ahmedabad for lesser reward. It told you why numbers can't sometimes be a reflection of a performance. It wasn't in Santner's case.
"Yeah, it was obviously nice to get the rewards," he said after New Zealand made it two wins in two. "I don't think I bowled as well as I did in Ahmedabad. Probably missed a little bit more, but it was nice to keep trying to be aggressive and get wickets. I guess that's the only way we can kind of slow the batters down in the middle of the ODI innings, by taking wickets.
"And I thought, as a bowling unit, we did that very well. Guys coming back, still being aggressive, trying to take wickets, and managed to chip them out along we went. And it was nice to get the win in the end."
Santner prides himself on reading situations and surfaces, and puts into practice his early assessment, even if it may be from watching the opponent bowl. On Monday, Santner took a cue from watching Aryan Dutt and Roelof van der Merwe, the Netherlands spin pair, operate in the middle overs.
"Yeah, I think it was, slightly on the slower side," he assessed. "I thought they bowled, especially their spinners, bowled extremely well. Yeah, it looked like we were kind of setting up a bigger score and they managed to pull it back and get a couple of wickets. So, I guess when I went in, it was still that kind of 'take it as deep as we can' and then try have a couple of big overs at the end, which luckily enough we did, to get up to 322."
Santner had a studious demeanor to him as he answered questions but allowed himself a slight chuckle when reminded of New Zealand's next venue, Chennai, where he's spent a few seasons at the IPL. He's had to mostly warm the bench because the dynamics of the Chennai Super Kings haven't always allowed him and Ravindra Jadeja to feature in the same XI. He was nonetheless excited going to his IPL home ground where New Zealand play Bangladesh on October 13.
"We knew that going into the tournament that Chennai has that nature of being a bit spinny and it did, especially first innings the other night [India v Australia]," he said. "And they're [Bangladesh] obviously good players of spin so it's going to be a challenge just like every other game is going to be in this World Cup.
"I think we're going to see teams beat teams and have upsets. We've got to be prepared for both those next coming games. Obviously first is Bangladesh and if it is something similar to the other night, it could be spinning a little bit in the daytime and then start to skid on a little bit and get a little bit dewy second innings so we've got to be prepared for both."
On the topic of spinning wickets, Santner also underlined the bowling adjustments he's had to make. From playing a holding role on grassy surfaces that leaves little bowling time back home, he is now an aggressor looking for wickets in the subcontinent.
"It's obviously nice to come over here and see some spinning wickets because they're few and far between back in New Zealand," he said. "I guess the role in New Zealand is slightly different to here. You want to be a little bit more aggressive. You keep your slips in for longer. I try to operate with that mid-on up most of the time, only having three back, trying to make them play big shots.
"And if it is spinning, yeah, the role is kind of more aggressive. And then I think we'll see at times throughout this tournament if it's pretty flat, it might be that defensive role for a little bit, try to get wickets through pressure. And then if it is, like tonight, if there is a little bit of spin, it might be, all right, let's be more aggressive. let's throw it up, leave the slip in. And so that was nice. I think Rachin [Ravindra] bowled extremely well as well, that kind of same mentality of always trying to get wickets through the middle."
So two wins, and a couple of days off in a long tournament. They should be flying high, right?
"Yes, obviously a nice start. We knew that turning up today after the highs of beating England, we couldn't get too complacent. We know the Netherlands are a good team and they almost touched up Pakistan the other day, so it was obviously nice to get the W tonight. It's another two points, but you got to move on pretty quickly in this tournament."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo