After one crazy afternoon in Trinidad, New Zealand batting coach Craig McMillan is feeling more heat than normal in a Caribbean summer.
Life was rosy after his first game, when the disciplined Black Caps batsmen stuck to the script and racked up 508-7 at Kingston to lay the platform for a big test win, just their second in the West Indies.
Then it was back to the bad old days at Port-of-Spain, where an opening day collapse of 7-60 scuppered their chances of clinching the series with a test to spare.
At 1-1 heading to Bridgetown, Barbados, the Black Caps have a chance to repeat their only Caribbean series victory of 2002, a teamthat included McMillan and bowling coach Shane Bond.
"I guess the spotlight turns on you when your department doesn't perform as well as you'd like," McMillan said.
"The important thing is to have that clarity that we made some poor decisions as a batting group in that second test, whereas in the first test we were outstanding in terms of the patience and graft that we showed. It was a timely reminder that we have to continue that hard work."
McMillan took comfort from the previous batting consistency. He noted in seven of their previous eight tests the Black Caps totalled 400-plus in their first innings, giving the bowling attack runs and confidence to play with. The veteran of 55 tests and 197 ODIs succeeded Bob Carter just before New Zealand arrived in the Caribbean. He's enjoyed it and will likely express an interest in continuing. Getting to know each batsman and what makes them tick, rather than making technical adjustments, was his key focus.
"It's about getting around the individuals and seeing how they're feeling during a test match, and if there were things that led to a dismissal in terms of their thought patterns. I've been reinforcing when they make good decisions and they're patient everything falls into place. They've done that over a period of time so there's no need for them to change things significantly after one poor batting performance."
There's a variety of formlines to deal with, too. Opener Tom Latham and No 3 Kane Williamson are in form while the others are a mixed bag. Hamish Rutherford is likely to get another chance and desperately needs runs; captain Brendon McCullum came off a diet of IPL and has struggled. Ross Taylor, another IPL arrival, is playing freely but was guilty of some loose shots when well set.
McMillan said the team were well aware of what beckoned if they can repeat New Zealand's win in Bridgetown in 2002.
"There has been some chatter about that. We have the opportunity to do something pretty special in New Zealand test history. If that doesn't get you excited then nothing will. They know they have to play better than in Trinidad."
The pitch presented bare and dry, with less grass than they'd hoped for. McMillan still thought there would be more pace than the previous two, with left-armer Neil Wagner likely to come in for either spinner Ish Sodhi or Mark Craig to provide a reliable third pace option. West Indies named an unchanged squad and are favourites after outplaying New Zealand with bat and ball in Trinidad.
- The Dominion Post
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