Training in Chennai Signals Next Gen Transition for NZ Trio

Two days after New Zealand’s golden era concluded in Tarouba, their upcoming talents were diligently training in Chennai. This southern Indian city has become a vital hub for New Zealand cricket, largely due to the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) connection. Chennai serves as a nurturing ground for these emerging players, offering them opportunities to hone their skills and build on the legacy of their predecessors, ensuring New Zealand cricket remains competitive on the international stage.

New Zealand Players’s Practice in Chennai:

Following New Zealand’s first-round exit at the T20 World Cup and with the upcoming series against Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and India, it was an opportune time for emerging New Zealand batters to train on slow, turning pitches. This winter stint aimed to prepare them for the challenging subcontinent conditions they will face in the next four months.

At the Super Kings Academy, spin-bowling allrounder Dean Foxcroft, top-order batter Tim Robinson, and wicketkeeper-batter Mitch Hay, three of New Zealand’s promising young talents, practiced against local spinners. They honed their skills using various sweep shots in both indoor and outdoor nets, showcasing their adaptability and technique.

For two weeks in Chennai, the trio trained under the guidance of Sriram Krishnamurthy, former New Zealand A and Wellington coach, now with the Super Kings Academy at CSK, and Paul Wiseman, NZC’s talent ID manager. They experienced black- and red-soil pitches and played T20 matches against Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) teams.

Mitch Hay on Practising Spin:

Mitch Hay, on the cusp of national selection, has excelled in both the Plunket Shield and white-ball cricket for Canterbury. Boasting an average of over 46 in 19 first-class games and a T20 strike rate nearing 150, he is also an adept wicketkeeper. Despite sweeping spin not being his forte, he diligently practices various sweep shots, including reverses, even on damp pitches post-rain.

He said, “I wouldn’t say I’m a natural sweeper, but having the exposure here is a great opportunity to learn from the coaches. Sri [Sriram] has been amazing with his knowledge of conditions in both India and New Zealand. So it’s been a good challenge to learn some different shots and different strategies on wickets that are spinning a lot more than at home.”

He further said, “In New Zealand, you can potentially stand up and hit through the line easier. The biggest takeaway for me against spin is trying to get low because the bounce is variable. We’ve also been trying to use the crease, and as Sri alluded to, a lot of Indian batsmen are good from the crease – playing deep but also coming out on the front foot to get really close to the ball. For me, it’s about staying low, and when the length is there, get into a strong position on the back foot to manoeuvre the ball.”

Dean Foxcroft’s Statement Regarding this:

Robinson, whose style resembles that of Finn Allen, has been honing his skills to better handle spin and diversify his gameplay. By integrating these new techniques, he aims to become a more well-rounded and adaptable player, ready to face a variety of bowling styles with increased confidence and competence.

He said, “I think for the sweep, I like to get outside the line of the ball and try not to get in front of the stumps. I also think it’s quite important to commit to the shot quite late so you can adjust to the length of the ball and then your own stride. For me, naturally at home in New Zealand, it’s a sweep-on-line thing, and the need to sweep is not as big there as it is here. So it’s something that we all are trying to develop, and it’s about using the right tools on the right wicket at the right time.”

Tim Robinson’s Statement Regarding this:

Foxcroft, the most seasoned of the trio, has won the PSL with Lahore Qalandars and participated in the Oman T10 league. Despite being unable to return to New Zealand for nearly two years due to COVID-19, he is now capitalizing on every opportunity to catch up, gaining valuable insights and experience from each engagement.

He said, “Pakistan and India are a bit different in terms of conditions. In Pakistan, the wickets are bit skiddier than here. Wherever you go, you’ve got to adapt quick enough to the conditions and understand your game better, which will be helpful when I come back and play on these wickets.”

Foxcroft, who bowls fast offspin, put his skills to the test against the TNPL team Nellai Royal Kings in a T20 match. During the 2023-24 Super Smash, he bowled only 6.2 overs across ten games for Otago. However, he is focused on developing into a true allrounder, aiming to contribute more significantly with both bat and ball.

He added, “ “Yeah, it [the bowling] has been coming out nicely. It’s a great time to come out to India and work on it. I want to be the No.1 allrounder, [and contribute] in both departments. Hopefully, I can get a five-for and a Test hundred or whatever, but I want to keep developing [the bowling] and get better at it at every training. It’s great to learn from Sri, the Chennai Super Kings coaches, [and bowling] different variations and different lengths.”

He further said, “ That’s the ultimate goal: to represent the country and play for the Black Caps. But there’s also a lot of things before that. To improve my strengths and keep working on my weaknesses and get better overall as a player… those sorts of things. Selection will look after itself, so I guess in a way it’s nice to take the focus away from that and put it on myself to get better so that when I do get the opportunity, I’m ready to perform.”

As Kane Williamson transitions to freelancing after relinquishing his New Zealand central contract, and with several players aging, Foxcroft, Robinson, and Hay are poised to seize upcoming opportunities. Despite New Zealand’s inadequate preparation highlighted during the recent T20 World Cup, the young batters may not face the same underprepared scenario when they embark on a more extensive tour of the subcontinent later this year.

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