As the cricket spotlight turns from the Test arena to this weekend’s Sheffield Shield and womens’ Big Bash, New Zealand’s batsmen are pondering how they’ll tackle to unique challenge the Perth pitch will provide in the first Test starting Thursday.
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor say the extra bounce, pink ball and unfamiliar time zone are all challenges that they are ready to tackle.
The odds appear stacked against the tourists, who are coming off two Tests against England on docile Kiwi tracks and will have just three training sessions to prepare for the zip of Optus Stadium.
The Black Caps’ last pink ball Test was nearly two years ago against England while Australia’s was a week ago – the rout of Pakistan in Adelaide.
Captain Williamson said this week his team was up for the Test.
“The old day-night thing, eh. It’ll be interesting. It’s just another thing to adapt to, I suppose,” he said. “Such is the international schedule – we fly out, have a little bit of training and are straight into another match.
“The perfect preparation? It’s always hard to know what that is.”
Taylor, New Zealand’s most experienced player, said the best preparation for Test cricket was Test cricket, regardless of different conditions.
He said the experienced Kiwi outfit had learned to cut their cloth to suit short preparation times and would knuckle down quickly after arriving on Saturday.
“Three training sessions, it just has to be enough,” he told AAP.
“It’s good to have at least played Test cricket. To have come out of Twenty20 cricket or a one-day series would have been tough over there.
Playing under lights, shaking off the time difference, we’ll have to speed all that up a little and just be ready.”
New Zealand’s prospects rest heavily on the shoulders of Williamson and Taylor.
The world class pair are coming off hundreds against England in Hamilton, sharing an unbroken stand off 213.
The current and former captains have now combined for 6703 runs as a third-wicket partnership in all formats, the third most in cricket history.
They sit behind Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene-Kumar Sangakkarra combination (10,305 runs) and India’s Sachin Tendulkar-Rahul Dravid mix (7239).
Fourth are Australians Ricky Ponting and Damien Martin (4123).
Of the top four, the Kiwi duo have the best average partnership of 58.28.
Back in Australia, Glenn Maxwell has taken another positive step in his comeback from a mental health break, the allrounder training with the Victorian Sheffield Shield squad.
Maxwell stepped away from cricket citing mental health issues during Australia’s Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka in October.
He has played three Victorian Premier Cricket matches with club side Fitzroy Doncaster since and has taken part in some aspects of Victoria’s Shield program.
But Thursday morning’s hit-out at the MCG was the first time Maxwell completed a full session with his teammates since he stepped away from the game.
“I think he is doing everything he needs to do … when he is ready to come back (he will),” teammate Marcus Harris told reporters.
“I’m not sure if it is this week or Big Bash, but he’s not far away I think.”
Victorian batsmen Will Pucovski and Nic Maddinson have also recently taken breaks to deal with mental health issues.
Both returned for this week’s drawn game against NSW at the MCG where Pucovski made a gritty 82 and Maddinson an impressive 59.
The Vics take on Western Australia at the MCG starting on Saturday, but Maxwell was not named in that squad.
Harris said it will be left to Maxwell to decide when he feels it’s the right time to return to the game on a full-time basis.
“I think those sort of guys need some space,” he said. “I think they’ve got everyone hounding them about what’s going on and what they’re doing.
And, South African Mickey Arthur has been appointed as Sri Lanka’s head coach on a two-year contract, the country’s cricket board said on Thursday.