Calcutta/Colombo: If Sri Lanka's biggest headache was the fitness of their lead spinner, and subsequently which slow bowlers they should put on the park, their opponents, New Zealand, is left thinking about how to play spin. After England's implosion against the Indian pair of Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla, it's clear that spin could play a major role in the World T20.
The pitches at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Hambantota and at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium have not been typically Sri Lankan. With a view to allowing them to host a number of matches, the pitches were firmer than is usually the case. Only at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo has there been some grip for the slow bowlers.
Whether this is set to change when Sri Lanka plays at Pallekele remains to be seen, but Ross Taylor, New Zealand's captain, was well aware of the potential risks of underestimating the role spinners could play. "I don't want to get too carried away," he was quoted saying to the ICC website. "Spin has been very successful in this form of the game. Colombo is a totally different wicket. I think last night (Pakistan vs Bangladesh in Pallekele) was probably the best wicket in the competition so far.
"It played pretty true ' it spun a little bit, but not a lot. That's something we'll need to work out very quickly tomorrow (Thursday), whether we're playing on a fresh wicket, the one they played on last night (Pakistan vs Bangladesh), or the one before. With two games tomorrow, the wicket could deteriorate and take a bit of turn for the second game and not the first."
Sri Lanka play New Zealand in the first game of the day, starting at 3.30pm local time. New Zealand will look to take the attack to Sri Lanka's spinners tomorrow, but this may be easier said than done. "The main message is to be aggressive and not let them settle," said Taylor. "You've got to assess it very quickly tomorrow. The two games that we've had against Pakistan and Bangladesh, there was one short boundary and one big boundary, whereas last night it was in the middle of the block. If there is a short boundary, then we need to attack that."
Taylor also conceded that each batsman had to work out a way to deal with spin, and that one solution would not work for all. "You don't want to tell someone to do something too differently," he said. "Brendon McCullum's been very successful in recent times in using his feet and playing from the crease as well. Anytime, against spin, if you let them bowl to you they dictate. If you can take the attack to them, it is a little bit easier."
Taylor, who plays for the Delhi DareDevils, is one of several New Zealand players who have recent experience of T20 leagues in either India or Sri Lanka or both. However, he said this experience was a double-edged sword. "You learn a lot off those players, but the flipside is they know a lot about you too," said Taylor. "It's tit-for-tat when it comes to that.
"It's always nice to play the host country when it comes to the World Cup. They are going to be a tough opposition, but we have some form players who are doing well at the moment, so it's time for some of the other players to step up and contribute to a team win."