Spin options showing an upturn
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.’’