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Latham backs NZ fringe bowlers to fill 'massive hole' in Southee and Boult's absence

He backs the group to suss out Indian conditions with the World Cup around the corner

Deivarayan Muthu
Trent Boult is currently in action for MI Emirates in the ILT20 in the UAE, having turned down his New Zealand central contract. And Tim Southee has been wrapped in cotton wool ahead of the home Test series against England in February. The last time New Zealand played an ODI without both Boult and Southee against a top-ranked team was back in 2016 against Australia in Hamilton.
Ish Sodhi's ankle injury, sustained during the third ODI in Karachi, has depleted New Zealand's attack even further. In the absence of a number of seniors, including regular white-ball captain Kane Williamson, who has also been rested for this India tour, New Zealand are looking to give some of their fringe players a run and find out if they could fit into their ODI World Cup plans.
"Anytime that Tim, Trent and Kane aren't in the side or aren't with us, it obviously leaves a massive hole for us," New Zealand captain Tom Latham said ahead of the first ODI in Hyderabad. "On the other hand, it presents opportunities for the other guys that have been around the squad for a while. I think we're lucky that pretty much everyone has played international cricket in this side, which is a bonus and over Covid, it presented opportunities to other guys. When guys like that have a break, it's the other guys' turn to step up and have an opportunity and we're lucky enough to have someone like Lockie Ferguson who has played a lot of cricket here in India and I'm sure the guys will be leaning on his experiences as best as possible."
On Tuesday, it was Ferguson, who has had IPL stints with Rising Pune Supergiant, Kolkata Knight Riders and reigning champions Gujarat Titans, who led the bowlers' meeting. He opened the bowling for New Zealand in their last series - a 2-1 win over Pakistan - and is likely to do so again with two out of Doug Bracewell, Henry Shipley and Jacob Duffy supporting him. This series is an opportunity for them and the rest of the group to suss out the Indian conditions before New Zealand return for the ODI World Cup later this year.
"This is our last opportunity to play in these conditions before the World Cup in October and November, which you know, isn't too far away," Latham said. "So, I guess for us it's [about] taking as many learnings as we can from these conditions and I said we're lucky enough that most of the guys have played in these Indian conditions before. I don't think we've played a one-dayer at any of the venues we have been playing at, so for us, it's getting used to the conditions and familiarising ourselves with different surfaces that we may be faced with during the World Cup."
Latham also drew confidence from New Zealand's ODI success in Karachi, where they bounced back from being 0-1 down to secure the three-match series. The pitches in Pakistan were slow and grippy, but the ones in India could be much better for batting, as was the case during the recent series against Sri Lanka, where the home side put up two scores of 370-plus in three games.
"The cricket we played in Pakistan was really good," Latham said. "It was somewhere we have never toured before for a long time and to come up with a series win where it is difficult to play was really nice. I guess for us coming here, it's about trying to adapt to conditions the best we can. The surfaces here will potentially be better than what we had in Pakistan; so just trying to stick to our plans as best as we can and I'm sure it'll be a competitive series. Every time we play India, it's always a competitive series and we're looking forward to what's coming up."
While New Zealand's bowling attack appears light, they have some excellent players of spin in their batting line-up. During the Test series in Pakistan, Latham and Devon Conway had their eyes locked on mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed's hand - both from the striker's end and the non-striker's end. New Zealand will now come up against Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav though the chances of both the wristspinners playing together are slim. Washington Sundar's offspin is more likely to be matched up with New Zealand's left-hander heavy line-up.
"As I said before, we're lucky enough we've played these guys and we've played India a lot - whether it would be here or back home in recent years," Latham said. "So, as I said we plan for these guys with our scouting as best as possible and talking to the guys that have played here before - whether it's in the IPL or different series in terms of trying to read their different deliveries. We will certainly be doing our best to try and negate them [Chahal and Kuldeep]. Obviously spin is quite a big thing over here in India, and we're really excited about the three games coming up in the one-day series."

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo