After a victory in the first One-Day International in Mumbai, it has all gone downhill for New Zealand on their limited-overs tour of India.
Kane Williamson’s men lost the remaining two ODIs, and suffered a 53-run defeat in the first Twenty20 International – their first against India in the shortest format. Their latest loss meant that when they face the home side in the second game on Saturday (November 4), the series will be at stake for them.
The highlight of New Zealand’s victory in the first ODI was the way their batsmen, especially Tom Latham and Ross Taylor, handled the spinners. Axar Patel also acknowledged Latham as the best player of spin in the New Zealand squad, but said that after that game, the Indian bowlers changed their strategy.
“In the first ODI, they did well, playing the sweep shot a lot,” conceded Axar. “We got a bit of an idea that their plan was to sweep against the spinners. So in the next game, our strategy was to use the angle – over the wicket, around the wicket – and to confuse them, pitch one ball fuller and other a bit shorter. So, accordingly, we had planned.”
“If you do well, the captain also backs you. I am playing since the second ODI and doing well. So obviously, the captain backs you and lets you bowl whatever you want to, sets the field of your choice. If that doesn’t work, then he will suggest a better option. But first, he leaves it to us to do what we want to do. And even if that plan is not successful, he still backs you which gives you more confidence that the captain is with you and you can bowl with a free mind.”
Axar, currently behind Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in the pecking order for limited-overs spinners, said that he was not worried about his place in the team, and was taking one game at a time.
“I take it match by match,” he said. “I don’t think like I have to cement my place in the team. I think that there is just this match for me and if I do well here, automatically I will get the next game. I already have a place in the team, that’s why I am playing.
“If you do well, the captain also backs you. I am playing since the second ODI and doing well. So, obviously, the captain backs me and lets me bowl whatever I want to, sets the field of my choice. If that doesn’t work, then he will suggest a better option. But first, he leaves it to us to do what we want to do. And even if that plan is not successful, he still backs you, which gives you more confidence that the captain is with you and you can bowl with a free mind.”
Speaking of the difference in the roles of a wrist spinner and a finger spinner, Axar said that the main goal was to combine and create pressure and try to pick up wickets in the middle overs. “The role is more or less same. The wrist spinners are more attacking as they normally get more turn. So their role is to take wickets in middle overs. For finger spinners, the role is to contain and not let the partnership build. If there is no partnership, the pressure won’t be on bowlers. So if we can exert pressure from both ends, there are more chances of picking up wickets.”
Saturday’s game will be played in Rajkot’s Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, and Axar felt he had an idea of what to bowl on the pitch. “I have an idea how the pitch here is usually,” he said. “I try to focus what I have been doing so far, the sort of I was doing in the IPL also. You won’t get much turn here. Usually, it’s skiddy and low bounce. So I know what I need to do. And I can also make my team-mates aware about it.”
Ravi Shastri, who took over as coach after the Windies tour earlier this year, was a left-arm finger spinner himself, but Axar said his conversations with him have been about little things here and there. “We don’t talk much because he also knows my bowling style is different from his. So he doesn’t tell much about changes,” said Axar.
“He just tells that you know what to do, that’s why you are in the Indian team. Just follow the same and the rest is all mind games and handling the pressure. And as per your bowling, you should bowl stump to stump.”
Talking about his batting, and the possible role as a pinch-hitter going forward, Axar said that if given a chance, he would prove himself.
“As per the team strategy, I may also get promoted in the batting order, especially if there are spinners from both ends since the ball would be coming in for me if a legspinner and a left-arm spinner are bowling,” he said. “If they are considering me an allrounder, whenever I get a chance, I will prove myself.”