INDIA arrived this week as the world’s top-ranked one-day international side while New Zealand remain eighth, having missed the chance to move up a spot after a 2-2 ODI series draw with the West Indies.
Home advantage, a bouncy McLean Park pitch and a fired-up pace attack provides New Zealand’s point of difference against the tourists, coming in without a warmup game after a tough tour of South Africa.
Hesson felt his pacemen took the foot off the accelerator against the West Indies, particularly when conceding 363-4 in the fifth ODI in Hamilton.
Milne didn’t play that game, and after two excellent spells in the 2-0 T20 series win, with a top speed of 153kmh, he could fill the coach’s blueprint against a prolific Indian top three of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, the latter averaging 51.5 from 125 ODIs including 17 centuries.
“If you just try and deny there comes a time in the game with only four fielders out where it’s extremely hard to defend. If you’re able to keep taking wickets at the top you can control those middle overs. That’s a pattern that’s worked well for us and one we’d certainly look to continue,” Hesson said.
“It’s aggression in terms of where you bowl the ball, the pace you bowl and the areas you bowl. You’re not just running up and putting it there and hoping good things will happen, you’re actually trying to make things happen. We’ve got a few guys who do that naturally so we’ll certainly be encouraging that.”
Hesson hoped to play Milne, 21, against the West Indies on his home ground on December 29 before rain washed out the second ODI. Curator Phil Stoyanoff talked up his surface as hard and bouncy and it’s unlikely to change much, although it’s a high-scoring ground where pacemen can be punished to the short side boundaries if they err.
That gives Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum a selection head-scratcher in their bowling lineup, with Tim Southee a certainty then one of Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan and Kyle Mills to miss out.
After his spell in the four-wicket win in Wellington, Milne deserves a chance after he ruffled some feathers with an accurate short ball and some well-placed yorkers.
It’s a slight risk playing Milne and the ultra-attacking McClenaghan (43 wickets from 18 ODIs) in the same lineup, given previous Napier runfests, but it’s one worth taking in order to give India a spicy welcome.
That puts the heat on Mills, 34, a long time leader of the ODI attack whose numbers from 162 ODIs still stack up impressively. Moving him to first change wasn’t the most positive sign, though, and he needs conditions to suit to be an attacking threat at his 130kmh pace.
“Kyle has been a great performer for a long time and if he plays he’ll use the new ball. We used him first change in the subcontinent and he did a good job. But him not having the new ball here negates some of his qualities. All four of the guys know that there’s competition for places and that’s a really good thing,” Hesson said.
New Zealand celebrated their T20 series win then moved to Napier yesterday, joining the Indians who arrived in the country on Monday. If nothing else, McCullum felt the Wellington victory rid the trend of New Zealand bottling it in series deciders, as they’d done in Hamilton and last year in both T20 and ODI series against England.
Hesson, meanwhile, expected little to change at McLean Park.
“Quick, bouncy, a good wicket, a high scoring game, that’s the pattern we get there and it’s been pretty consistent.”