More often than not, New Zealand have been a tough opposition to crack for the Indians. The last time the two teams battled in a One-Day International series was exactly a year back, the visitors missing a chance to secure a maiden bilateral series win in India at the last hurdle.
Back then, it was the legspin of Amit Mishra that sent the side to a crushing 190-run defeat in the decider, but the New Zealanders are noticeably in a better place to tackle spin this time around as was visible in the first ODI in Mumbai, where they shocked the hosts by cruising to a comfortable six-wicket win.
India hit back in the second game in Pune with a six-wicket win of their own to level the three-match series 1-1, but Tim Southee felt that his team was more excited than nervous going into the all-important clash at the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur on Sunday (October 29).
“There was an air of excitement around the guys today at training,” said Southee on Saturday. “The series is on the line tomorrow. That’s what we play for. A lot of sides have come to India and walked away empty-handed. We did that last year. We’re in the series decider so hopefully we won’t this year.”
“It’ll be nice to seal the series here, but India are a tough team in their own conditions as they have shown that over a while. It’s very tough to win over here. We had a good day’s training, a nice day yesterday where we freshened up and got away from everything on an extra free day. The excitement around the group is pretty high at the moment.”
Although most of the New Zealand players in the current setup have played in the Indian Premier League, the oppressive heat and humidity in Mumbai got to a few of them. However, with winter just settling in, Kanpur will be much cooler, giving the side one less thing to worry about.
“We know that, coming to India, the heat is always a challenge,” admitted Southee. “What we experienced in Mumbai was something some of the players never experienced before … the humidity and the amount of fluids lost. Pune was relatively nice. Different again, here.
“I guess one thing is adapting to the conditions as quick as possible. It’s a different ground and it offers different challenges so if we can adapt to that quickly and see what is working then we’ll go a long way in a good bowling performance.”
New Zealand have not played any international cricket since they were ousted by Bangladesh in the group stage during the 2017 Champions Trophy, but Southee was confident that they were as prepared as they could be. He reasoned that some of the players were involved in various Twenty20 leagues around the globe, and others toured India with New Zealand A for two four-day games and five one-dayers last month.
“We were involved in a lot of preparations coming into the series,” he said. “Various guys were participating in different competitions around the world, be it in the Caribbean or in England or some of the guys on the A tour here.”
“Some of the guys had breaks too. We came together in Mumbai where we had two good warm-up games before that first one-dayer. You get more information about the opposition batters and there’s information going out there as well.”