Spin op­tions show­ing an up­turn

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

As the Black Caps brains trust plans for the World Cup, the makeup of the bowl­ing attack will be front and cen­tre, with one ques­tion stand­ing out: Should they play one spin­ner or two?

No-one stands to gain more from the an­swer than Ish Sodhi.

The legspin­ner has played 28 ODIS since his de­but in 2015, and in 19 of them, he was one of two twirlers, usu­ally along­side Mitchell Sant­ner.

Six of the nine where he’s been the sole spin­ner have come in the past three months, with Sant­ner side­lined, re­cov­er­ing from knee surgery.

The left-armer re­turned to the Black Caps in Fri­day’s Twenty20 35-run win over Sri Lanka in Auck­land, and should come straight back into the ODI team for the se­ries against In­dia that starts on Jan­uary 23, as he pro­vides bat­ting depth and bowls with a good econ­omy rate.

So where does that leave Sodhi, with the squad to face In­dia to be named this week?

The Black Caps have used two spin­ners in 12 of their past 23 ODIS at home go­ing back to the start of 2017, with part-timer Kane Wil­liamson bowl­ing five overs or more in three oth­ers. Sant­ner’s re­turn means it could be on the cards again for the In­dia se­ries and the visit from Bangladesh that fol­lows.

Af­ter that comes the World Cup in June and early July, a time of year when spin­ners have seen a lot of ac­tion in Eng­land.

For­mer Black Caps coach Mike Hes­son sug­gested two spin­ners would be likely while com­men­tat­ing on the re­cent ODI se­ries against Sri Lanka, and given he was in charge just seven months ago, it’s safe to as­sume he’s well in­formed.

There will be at least two spin­ners in the World Cup squad re­gard­less, but while Sodhi is likely to be one of them – Todd As­tle would be next in line – he isn’t look­ing past his next match, a Twenty20 with the North­ern Knights mid­week.

‘‘Ev­ery crick­eter in New Zealand is hop­ing for that World Cup callup and I’m no dif­fer­ent,’’ As­tle said.

‘‘It would be awe­some to be able to have that ex­pe­ri­ence, but the whole idea of the last se­ries for me was not to look too far ahead.

‘‘That’s when I get my­self in trouble, when I’m not focused on right now, and it’s been work­ing for me pretty well so far, so I’m go­ing to con­tinue try­ing to do that, as cliched as it sounds.’’

As they both hail from North­ern Dis­tricts, Sodhi has played a lot of cricket with Sant­ner and is ex­cited to have his spin part­ner back.

‘‘He is ab­so­lutely world-class and watch­ing him in the nets, be­ing around him, be­ing able to pick his brain in terms of white­ball bowl­ing, his nous is sec­ond to none. He’s still bowl­ing as well as ever and he even looks like he’s get­ting bet­ter,’’ Sodhi said.

‘‘I re­ally en­joy bowl­ing with Mitch, just his abil­ity to con­trol the run rate helps me as a bowler at the other end, and the other bowlers as well.’’

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