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Feature

What the upcoming tours to Bangladesh and Pakistan mean for New Zealand

None of the players on tour to Bangladesh will play the T20 World Cup, so what lies ahead for them?

Deivarayan Muthu
30-Aug-2021
Kane Williamson and co. will be in the UAE and Oman for the second chunk of IPL 2021. Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert, and Colin Munro - who believes his days with New Zealand are over - are at the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) while Lockie Ferguson is recovering from Covid-19, as is Finn Allen. Head coach Gary Stead has taken a break before the T20 World Cup, with Wellington's Glenn Pocknall standing in for him.
In the absence of a number of seniors, this is essentially a New Zealand A side, which includes some of the best performers from the Super Smash, going on twin tours to Bangladesh and Pakistan. None of the players from the Bangladesh touring party will feature in the upcoming T20 World Cup, so what do these winter tours mean to them? It will be a chance for them to press for higher honours later this year and add to New Zealand's already enviable depth.
New Zealand's prep
They will first run into an upbeat Bangladesh team, fresh off dispatching Australia 4-1 at the spin-friendly Shere Bangla National stadium. The conditions would be similarly difficult for an inexperienced New Zealand side but, for starters, they're certainly better prepared than the contingent that toured the country last time in 2013-14, when they were blanked 3-0 in the ODIs and managed to win the one-off T20I in the white-ball leg.
Back then, New Zealand went into the third ODI in Fatullah without ever playing or training at the venue. "This is the first time in international cricket where I will turn up at the ground on the day of the match," Ross Taylor had said. "Jacob Oram played a club game there a couple of weeks ago. He said it's low and slow, they got 180-odd, the second team got out cheaply. We expect the bounce to deteriorate as the day goes on, but the opposite can happen too."
It was the opposite that happened, with Bangladesh shocking New Zealand by hunting down 307. New Zealand have become masters at reading - and preparing for - foreign conditions since then. Most recently they simulated the swinging conditions at home and trained with the Dukes ball before the England tour and the World Test Championship final.
Ahead of this trip to Bangladesh, New Zealand simulated spin-friendly conditions during their winter camps in Mount Maunganui and Lincoln. They are also scheduled to have at least five outdoor training sessions before the series opener on September 1, but nevertheless, going toe-to-toe with a near-full-strength Bangladesh team in their backyard is a different challenge altogether.
Uncapped trio in focus
The spotlight will be on the uncapped trio of Rachin Ravindra, Cole McConchie, and Ben Sears. Ravindra, who is tipped to be the future of New Zealand batting, will return to the scene of his first Under-19 World Cup, having already been a member of the WTC-winning squad earlier this year. Ravindra, however, hasn't played a white-ball game since he dislocated his right shoulder while turning out for Wellington Firebirds against the Canterbury Kings in the Super Smash in January.
Sears, Ravindra's Firebirds team-mate, can set the speed gun on fire and his low-arm action might not be easy to pick in the early exchanges. Canterbury captain McConchie, meanwhile, is a power-hitting middle-order batter who can also bowl handy offspin. He has been lined up to play the role that Mitchell Santner does for New Zealand.
As senior Wellington fast bowler Hamish Bennett pointed out, strong performances in Bangladesh could potentially put these players in the World Cup mix, if New Zealand have some fitness concerns in the lead-up to the tournament. If Sears razes Bangladesh with his raw pace on his first tour, he might be a wildcard pick for the T20 World Cup. Sears himself reckons he's the "15th bowler in the country" picked for this tour because "everyone is out", but who knows?
"It sucks missing out on the World Cup team and there's lots of guys, I'm sure every first-class cricketer in New Zealand would have wanted to make that squad," Bennett said. "But you've just got to go out and show your skills in the subcontinent. If there is an injury or something does happen then hopefully your name is at the top of the list that gets the phone call. That's all you can do."
What's in it for Latham, Nicholls, de Grandhomme?
Stand-in captain Tom Latham and batter Henry Nicholls haven't played a T20I since 2017 and 2019 respectively, but their ODI-style of batting and ability to throw spinners off with the sweep is perhaps better suited to the middle overs in Bangladesh, where Australia particularly struggled. Ravindra said as much after New Zealand's training session on Saturday.
''Yes, definitely [we need to have the mental shift]," Ravindra said. "Understanding that maybe getting six an over is a good result here whereas in New Zealand facing a spinner if you are taking eight-ten runs then that is a good result. Now, I understand our expectation for scoring runs, especially through the middle of the innings needs to be down a bit and if we look their series against the Aussies, the par-score was around 130, so, I guess we should bring our expectations down, and understand maybe, if they bowl, a couple of dots, then it's okay as long as you are in the middle, you can make it up."
As for Colin de Grandhomme, who has slipped down the pecking order in limited-overs cricket after missing the entire home summer with injury, this is another opportunity to re-establish himself. He was left out of New Zealand's T20 World Cup squad, with Daryl Mitchell winning the second seam-bowling allrounder's spot behind Jimmy Neesham.
New Zealand have won just one of their last eight white-ball internationals against Bangladesh in Bangladesh, and are without a slew of first-choice players this time, but they can still spring a surprise.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo