When Glenn Phillips came up against Pakistan at home and later in the UAE in 2018, he was a fairly limited batsman in white-ball cricket. Craig McMillan, the former New Zealand batting coach, recently told host broadcaster Spark Sport that the then management had asked Phillips to expand his game to get another crack at New Zealand's T20I line-up. Nearly three years later, Phillips will run into Pakistan once again, this time as a more versatile batsman, with back-to-back bumper CPL stints and New Zealand's fastest T20I century to his name.
During his time away from the national team, Phillips bulked up, and became more adept at powering the ball down the ground. And during his stint with Jamaica Tallawahs at the CPL, he honed his technique against spin with Ramnaresh Sarwan. In only his second innings after returning to New Zealand's T20I side, Phillips put all of that backroom work into excellent use, striking a 46-ball century against West Indies, the reigning T20I world champions.
Having followed that knock with another match-winning hundred, in a four-day fixture against the touring West Indians earlier this month, Phillips is ready to shift his focus to the shortest format.
"Obviously, it's good to take some confidence going into the series," Phillips said on the eve of the T20I series opener against Pakistan at his home ground Eden Park. "But, for me and probably every other player that plays international cricket, it comes back to every ball - start of a new day, start of a new series. So, [I'm] taking it back to square one for me.
"I think every player resets from game to game. I obviously went back and played some four-day cricket for New Zealand A. So, for me it's all game-plan orientated and sticking to the process. Whether it's ball one or ball ten - it makes no difference to me. So, if I stick to my game-plan, it'll best suit the team in whatever situation we're in."
In the absence of Kane Williamson, who had been rested for the T20Is against West Indies, Phillips slotted in at No.4, below Tim Seifert, Martin Guptill and newbie Devon Conway, but the possible return of Williamson for the second and third T20Is against Pakistan could shake up the middle order. Phillips said that he wasn't fussed about his position and was open to batting anywhere to suit the needs of the team.
"I mean every match the team shuffles around slightly depending on what pitch conditions and ground we're playing at determine," Phillips said. "For me personally, it's just doing whatever the team needs - whether my role changes [or] whether I move up or down. Obviously Kane coming back is a massive asset to the team and wherever I fit in there, I'll roll with it and do the best I can."
Taylor isn't finished yet in T20 cricket - Guptill
The emergence of Conway and re-emergence of Phillips has put greater pressure on Ross Taylor, who has been dropped for the Pakistan T20Is. Taylor will instead turn out for Central Stags in the Super Smash, which begins on December 24, and his good friend Guptill is confident that he can win his spot back in the T20I team.
"I haven't spoken to him [Taylor] much, but little in bits and parts…I know what Ross is like and he'll come back stronger," Guptill said. "He's not finished in T20 cricket yet, I know he will be gunning to be back into the team."
Guptill also said the absence of Colin Munro, who is turning out for Perth Scorchers in the BBL across the Tasman Sea, hasn't affected New Zealand's plans "too much", and that he's beginning to gel at the top with Seifert.
"It's all part of professional sport," Guptill said. "It's an unfortunate thing that people get left out and new people come in. It's just the way that goes. [There's] the opportunity to bat with someone new at the top of the order in Tim [Seifert] - and we've had only a couple of gos at it.
West Indies' attack lacked serious penetration, but Pakistan's appears more formidable, and Guptill was wary of it. The visitors have the left-arm variety of Shaheen Afridi and Wahab Riaz to go with the 140-plus kph pace of Haris Rauf and Mohammad Hasnain. They also have gun T20 spinners in Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim.
"Every team is different. They've got different challenges, they've got guys in their side that did very well in the World Cup last year and have taken their form all the way through," Guptill said. "It's about re-evaluating and just re-setting our game-plans to see what they've got."
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo