Dharamsala: Mitchell Santner’s experience of playing for Chennai Super Kings in various Indian grounds has proved to be very handy for the New Zealand side, which will bank on its premier spinner to inflict damage on hosts when the two teams lock horns here on Sunday.
New Zealand have been India’s bogey team in the World Cup, having only lost twice across editions — in 1987 (twice) and 2003.
Latham was full of praise for Santner, who is the highest wicket-taker in the tournament so far with 11 scalps from four games and expects him to play a big role against India.
‘…he’s (Santner) been a massive part of our side for many years now. I think his experience in these conditions, he’s obviously played in the IPL for many years,’ Latham said ahead of the game against India.
‘He has been with the Chennai side (Chennai Super Kings) for a long time, so I think we’ve seen how adaptable he is in these conditions. He can obviously turn the ball and he’s obviously got (can extract) a lot of bounce as well which makes him really threatening,’ the stand-in skipper explained elaborately as to what makes Santner so lethal in these conditions.
The India match will pose a different challenge for Santner with a star-studded top-order which has played him more comfortably than most sides in recent past.
‘He’s been fantastic for us so far this tournament and I’m sure hopefully tomorrow will be no different. And as I said he’s performed really well and in a couple of games and I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to trying to repeat that,’ the skipper said.
So, much is at stake and Latham believes adapting to conditions will play a major role in their campaign.
‘… I think from our consistency over World Cups it’s always been for us is about trying to play our brand of cricket as best we can, for us sticking to our game plan and trying to do that for long periods of time and stay in the game for as long as possible has sort of been the key to what we’ve done. ‘Obviously the last two ODI World Cups have been obviously in Australia and England where conditions are reasonably similar to back home, whereas this one’s obviously completely different where conditions are completely different,’ Latham said during pre-match press conference. ‘So again, adapting as much as we can has been a massive thing that we talk about and doing that as quick as possible and if we can do that then hopefully that gives ourselves a good chance.
Dharamsala isn’t a ground where New Zealand have played a lot of bilaterals over the years.
‘We haven’t played a lot of cricket up here in Dharamshala. Guys haven’t played a lot, so for us, trying to adapt to conditions as quick as possible is going to be really important,’ he added.
Stressing further Latham a side which adapts to the Indian conditions quickly will definitely have an edge in this tournament.
‘Yeah, I’m not 100 per cent sure what it is, but as I said, being adaptable is probably one of the most important things for us as a group and trying to do that as quick as possible. Obviously with this format you play everyone once which is obviously unique to 2015 where it was pool play.
‘So yeah, again we’re in India, we’re offered different conditions that we’re used to. So, adaptability, sticking to our plan as best you can. And if you do that, then hopefully that gives you a good chance at the end of the game,’ he said.
Hardik Pandya’s absence from Sunday’s match is a massive blow for India and Latham wants to cash in on the opportunity.
Pandya will miss Sunday’s game against New Zealand after sustaining an injury on his left ankle against Bangladesh during India’s last match.
‘And obviously, missing Hardik, who is a key member obviously (affect) the balance of their side. Our preparation will be for all players of their team, who are going to play and we’ll just wait and see what they come up with tomorrow,’ Latham said.
In ICC events, particularly in ODI World Cup New Zealand hold an edge over India having won five out of nine matches they played against each other. India came out victorious in three occasions while one match was abandoned.
‘I’m not sure to be honest. They’re a fantastic team. They’ve been playing some great cricket for a long period of time. We’ve had some great contests in ICC events, but also in bilateral series, whether that be home or away. We’ve played each other quite a lot over recent years which has been really cool,’ Latham said.
‘So yeah, I’m not too sure as I said just before – for us it’s just about trying to play our game plan as best we can and try to execute it as well as we can and if we do that then we know we can beat any team in the world on our day.
Latham expects a keen contest on Sunday between two top teams of the World Cup so far.
‘India are a fantastic side. We’ve seen that over many years, especially at this World Cup as well. They’re playing some fantastic cricket, which is great to see. On the back of that, I see two form teams that are playing some good cricket, so it’s going to be a great contest tomorrow.
‘Over recent years, we’ve had some great games of cricket, whether here in India or back home in New Zealand. So, I’m sure tomorrow the clash will be no different and I’m sure both sides are really looking forward to it,’ he said.
(Published 21 October 2023, 11:55 IST)