Six New Zealand players who were involved in the IPL and will also feature in the upcoming series against West Indies are currently training in a managed isolation facility in Lincoln. With them are Shane Bond and Brendon McCullum, who were part of the coaching staff at the Mumbai Indians and the Kolkata Knight Riders respectively, with New Zealand roping them in as guest coaches during the quarantine period.
Fast bowler Lockie Ferguson is one of the players in this bubble, and he's thrilled to spend time with Bond, whom he describes as "a hero of mine while growing up".
"We had a tour to the UAE with the New Zealand A side two years ago," Ferguson said in a virtual media interaction. "He was the coach there and that's the biggest stint I've had with him. [We have] similar ways of bowling - obviously he was super impressive. But we've had some great chats there. He was even asking [about] one of the plans, [which] was coming around the wicket so much and bowling short to guys. He asked me why I wasn't doing it as much as I used to. So he remembers it as well. It's been great to have him to bounce ideas off and get some notes on West Indies."
Ferguson will feature in the three-match T20I series against West Indies, but he isn't part of the squad for the two Tests that follow. Ferguson is keen to make a return to the longest format, having had to endure a rough first stint in whites. Making his Test debut against Australia in Perth last year, a calf strain curtailed his bowling output to just 11 first-innings overs and ruled him out of the rest of the tour as well as the subsequent home Tests against India.
While Ferguson was away, the towering Kyle Jamieson made his debut for New Zealand, picking up nine wickets across two Tests against India, including 5 for 45 in a Man-of-the-Match performance in Christchurch, while also contributing runs down the order. But Ferguson isn't bothered by the competition, and is instead looking forward to "keep doing the work in the background".
"I think it's a fantastic time to be playing for the Black Caps," he said. "You see the depth - Kyle Jamieson, one of my good mates, coming through and taking his opportunity [and] playing very well. [This] puts pressure on all bowlers to perform well and he's started the [domestic] season very well this year - he's taken five-fors pretty much every game, so I think it's great. For me, that means I'll have to work hard to get an opportunity and have a chance in the side. And if that opportunity comes, I'll do what I can to take with open arms.
"… [Jamieson] certainly deserves a spot in that side. But having said that, the Test side is a tough team to make - there's so much depth and obviously our big three (Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner) have been so successful for a long period of time. But you can only take it game by game - tough to look too far ahead."
Bond believes it won't be long before Ferguson is back in the Test side despite having fallen behind in the queue.
"He's sitting in behind - you'd argue - three, maybe four or five [bowlers], with Matt Henry around as well," Bond said. "I think everybody is more than aware of what he can do in terms of pace. He offers an intimidation factor, he's just part of our wider Black Caps bowling squad. So when he gets his chance to play four-day cricket for Auckland, it's just [about] continuing to bowl well and put in good performances. And either through retirements, injuries or his own performances, he'll get his chance sometime in the future perhaps."
What Ferguson can bring to the Test attack, Bond says, is the "intimidation factor", which can be especially useful against the lower order.
"I think we've seen that in Australia over the past period of time, where they really do clean up the tail through using their fast bowlers and intimidating sort of from [number] eight down," Bond said. "Because no one wants to face the sort of pace that Lockie bowls, particularly when he loves to bowl around the wicket as well, it's pretty horrible."
Ferguson, Bond says, could be especially useful on the flatter pitches in New Zealand, particularly in the second innings.
"Wickets in New Zealand are flat, they're generally green at the start, they flatten out, they don't turn, they become a sort of run fest in the second innings in particular, so if you use him in those short, sharp spells, then he can come on and create some chaos through the middle there, and particularly in the back end where people just don't want to face that stuff, that can make life easier for the rest of the order. "
Bond also credited the New Zealand management for investing in Jamieson.
"I thought last season he was sensational," Bond said. "He's certainly taken his game to another level, and I think that's a sign of the investment New Zealand Cricket have put in him - the value of those A tours, programs, what he's learned about travelling and what's required to be at the top."
"And then the second part is the credit to Kyle himself for going away and continuing to improve on areas that he had to to be successful. So he's a hugely exciting talent, obviously offers multi-skills, and just offers that point of difference with his height and his bounce as well."
Despite Jamieson yet to make his T20I debut, Bond already foresees an IPL opportunity for him and is looking forward to him playing T20 cricket.
"I'm looking forward to see how he goes in T20, and there's always opportunities in the T20 game as well," he says. "With another IPL around the corner, who knows what can happen. Things in this game can change pretty quick, so looking forward to seeing what he can do."
While New Zealand's IPL contingent have cleared two Covid-19 tests, they will need to take a third one before being allowed to join the rest of the squad ahead of the T20I series starting November 27.