The Dominion Post
Black Caps rookie soaks up every detail at camp
Rubbing shoulders with experienced Black Caps team-mates in the nets, uncapped Rachin Ravindra was soaking up knowledge like a sponge.
The 21-year-old has been back at New Zealand Cricket’s high performance facility in Lincoln, near Christchurch, this week for the first of two pre-England tour training camps. It’s a venue he knows well.
Ravindra feasted on bowlers at the surrounding pitches as a schoolboy for Hutt International Boys’ School during the annual Gillette Cup schoolboy nationals.
It was a different scenario this week with the Wellington Firebirds opening batsman and left-arm spin bowler among the new boys in the Black Caps’ touring party for England.
Next weekend, he will travel for the first time to England, where New Zealand face the hosts in two tests before the World Test Championship final against India at Southampton on June 18-22.
Up until this week, Ravindra had never previously faced a Duke ball, which are used for test matches in England and more receptive to swing.
This week, he has trained alongside senior Black Caps, including Ross Taylor, BJ Watling and Tim Southee, who were on the opposite side in domestic cricket, but are now his team-mates.
‘‘It’s an amazing experience so far. I think everyone is so welcoming and the environment is amazing and so jovial. I feel like I can be myself and it’s just nice mixing with world-class players and see what I can learn from them,’’ Ravindra said.
A dream test debut at Lord’s looked a possibility for Ravindra with the Black Caps’ test quartet in the Indian Premier League originally supposed to link with the team later.
With the IPL postponed on Tuesday amid a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths in India, captain
Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner and Trent Boult are booked to travel to England in the coming days. They will then complete 10 days of quarantine upon arrival.
Those four players are expected to be available for the first test against England, starting June 2, which would make it tougher for Ravindra to crack the XI and debut.
‘‘To be honest I’m not too worried about that. Any chance I get to even travel with the team is amazing.
‘‘I’m learning off the field and
I’m learning on the field training.
‘‘If I get the opportunity then great, but if I don’t then that’s fine, there’s world-class players ahead of me. There’s definitely no expectation.’’
The battle for the first-choice all-rounder spot in the New Zealand test XI is one of the storylines of the tour. Daryl Mitchell, who was so impressive last home summer, appears to have the inside running, but Ravindra, Colin de Grandhomme, who needs to prove his fitness following ankle surgery in March, and Santner are also in contention.
Ravindra’s batting record in his young domestic career speaks for itself, scoring 1470 runs at just under 39 from 26 matches with three first-class tons.
He admitted his left-arm spin remained a work in progress and was trying to learn as much as he could at the Lincoln training camps.
In first-class cricket, Ravindra has captured 22 wickets from 26 matches at an average of 58.22.
Former New Zealand offspinner Jeetan Patel, a longime Wellington stalwart and now England’s fulltime spin bowling coach, had been a valuable mentor for Ravindra.
‘‘Obviously the last few years Jeets [Patel] has been a really good help. Just having little conversations with him about it.
‘‘My spin bowling idol has been Daniel Vettori. I’ve never had a conversation with him, but just watching the way he bowls is something I’d love to replicate . . .
‘‘[Patel] knows exactly what to do in each single situation. I think just spending time with him and learning those little things [has been huge].
‘‘Just having discussions about spin bowling has been really helpful.’’
Black Caps batting coach Luke Ronchi, himself a former Firebird, was full of praise for the way Ravindra had taken on fresh information and slotted into the environment this week.
He had resembled a sponge, learning off his more experienced team-mates and wasn’t afraid to ask questions.
‘‘He’s buzzing. He’s always happy and has got a big smile on his face. He’s a young guy, he wants to prove a point. He wants to do really well.
‘‘This season has been a pivotal season for him. In the [New Zealand] A’s he did really well. He put runs on the board and then after that A series as well, domestically, he’s been doing really well.’’
The New Zealand-based Black Caps return to Lincoln for a three-day training camp next week from Tuesday to Thursday before flying out next weekend.
‘‘I’m learning off the field and I’m learning on the field training.’’ Rachin Ravindra