Experience pays off for NZ veteran Kyle Mills
Shorter boundaries. Bigger bats. Fewer fielders on the rope. MS Dhoni wielding the willow menacingly.
It's hardly the recipe for a happy existence for a one-day international bowler, particularly those tasked with that joyous term: "bowling at the death".
But senior New Zealand paceman Kyle Mills had a smile on his face under the Seddon Park grandstand, not just for the fact New Zealand nailed a series win against India with one ODI to spare, at Wellington's Westpac Stadium tomorrow.
With a slew of young and rejuvenated pacemen tearing in for a spot in the New Zealand team, Mills' name was left off the team sheet on quicker surfaces in Napier and Auckland. He's never known intense competition like it in his 12 years in the team.
But the 34-year-old veteran of 164 ODIs wasn't letting go easily. He bowled tidily in game two in Hamilton, which New Zealand won, then on Tuesday produced one of his best spells in a black shirt in recent memory as the hosts restricted India to 278-5.
"I often wish I was the bowler I was five years ago. I have to really call on my experience and that helps in certain situations where I know where I should be bowling at certain times and what fields we can set. I've got to have faith and trust myself and that I can deliver in those situations," Mills said.
"I've always been confident in myself because my stats suggest that I should be in there. I've always felt I've bowled well and contributed to the team performance."
Those stats still make compelling reading; 233 wickets at an average of 26.81 and an economy rate of 4.73. Bowling the 49th over with Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja in full flight he conceded just eight runs and ended with 1-42, including two early maidens. The numbers didn't do the performance justice as he slammed the brakes on early then unleashed his variations and guile.
He was left out of the Twenty20 side against West Indies to give Adam Milne a run, but it's a safe bet he'll be at the World T20 in March. "I like to think so. My T20 form has been pretty fair and to play a T20 World Cup would be huge."
Then there's a World Cup on home soil in just over a year's time, which Mills has had his eye on for a some time.
Tuesday's bowling performance was satisfying for the fact that their short-pitched plans to the Indian top-order again paid dividends, and Mills was able to create some doubt at the death.
It was tougher times at the other end for Hamish Bennett and Jimmy Neesham as India took 100 off the last 10 overs. Corey Anderson also had a tough lesson at the death in the Auckland tie and, after resting for the Hamilton game, should return in Wellington according to captain Brendon McCullum who said the explosive allrounder needed a freshen up.
Mills said his experience and lengthy scouting sessions on the Indian batsmen helped him marshal the troops in Hamilton.
"Mentally I'm still adjusting. It's a pretty tough environment being a bowler in the international one-day game with the wickets so flat and the boundaries so short. With two balls it means the ball stays harder throughout the whole 50 overs.
"As a bowler you've got to come up with ways to get better. All bowling groups around the world are doing that, trying funky fields and creating new deliveries to nullify the batsman. I really enjoy watching other bowlers to see what plans they've come up with. I try a few plans myself and so far they're working."
The series win over the team ranked world No 1 at the start of the series was right up there with the highlights of Mills' career.
"These guys are a very good unit, world champions and Champions Trophy holders. To have a series win against them, and to do it in Hamilton which is as close as a subcontinent wicket that you'll get ... to win twice against them here was superb."
The Dominion Post