Batting reshuffle shakes up the Black Caps

STRAIGHT BAT: New Zealand batsmen Brendon McCullum and captain Ross Taylor.
STRAIGHT BAT: New Zealand batsmen Brendon McCullum and captain Ross Taylor.

Black Caps skipper Ross Taylor has hinted at a batting order reshuffle ahead of the two-test match series against India, which starts this week.

The frailties of New Zealand's battling lineup were exposed on their recent disastrous tour of the West Indies, with the Black Caps dismissed for 351, 272, 260 and 154 in their two-test match losses to the hosts.

No batsmen reached triple figures in the tests, while, barring the first innings in Antigua (351), a strong foundation by the top order was lacking once again.

With the upcoming visit to India, which starts with the first test in Hyderabad on Thursday, the first with new coach Mike Hesson at the helm, Taylor said changes will be enforced, starting with who bats where.

"I think there will be a change in the batting order," Taylor told the Sunday Star-Times. "It will come out in time, but I don't want to give too much away." While Taylor remained reticent on who might move where, the promotion of Brendon McCullum to open seems very possible, along with a move for Kane Williamson to first drop.

McCullum, who scored 128 runs at 32 in the West Indian tests batting third, made his highest test score in the Black Caps' 2010 tour of India, when he fought his way to a gutsy 225 in the drawn first test in Hyderabad.

His promotion could see Williamson, who has largely batted in the middle order since his test debut on that same tour, move to first drop.

The Black Caps, who departed for India on Friday, will not play a first-class warmup game in the subcontinent prior to the tests, a decision defended by Taylor.

"We went over there and drew the first two test matches against India, without a warmup game, a couple of years ago," he said.

"We came straight out of a winter. This time, we played test match cricket last week on similar conditions to what we're going to be facing in India.

"You've got to weigh up whether playing a warmup game for two days is going to be beneficial, or spending an extra two or three days at home after [the West Indies]."

Canterbury coach Bob Carter has joined Hesson's staff as the team batting coach. Taylor said he is looking forward to working closely with the duo, and doesn't feel that Hesson's close friendship with McCullum will affect the Black Caps' leadership dynamics.

McCullum was in the running for the captaincy, but lost out when Taylor was chosen ahead of him last year. "Mike Hesson is very professional in the way he goes," Taylor said.

"There's no doubt there's a relationship there, but I don't have any problems with the way Hesson is going to run the team, and my relationship with him.

"I think it will be a positive. Another positive for him is getting the best out of individuals and with his close relationship with Brendon, I'm sure we'll get the best out of Brendon as well."

Following the tests, the second starting in Bangalore on August 31, the Caps will play two Twenty20 matches against India, before embarking on their T20 world cup campaign in Sri Lanka, starting on September 21 versus Bangladesh.

Sunday Star Times