Stead admits NZ are facing a 'tough and challenging' schedule
New Zealand are scheduled to face India in the first T20I of a three-match series, in Jaipur, just three days after losing the T20 World Cup final to Australia in Dubai. New Zealand will then kick off their World Test Championship defence with two games in Kanpur and Mumbai. Gary Stead, the coach of the team, called the schedule "tough and challenging", but there isn't an option.
The Test players, who are not part of the T20I squad, are already in India. The New Zealand support staff will have to juggle with training the Test players in the morning and the T20I group later in the evening while in India.
"It's the first time that I can remember that we're so quickly into another series immediately at the back-end of the T20 World Cup," Stead said. "It's definitely tough and challenging but it is what is in front of us. We've got nine-ten guys in India already, who are preparing for those Test matches, and hopefully we can get up and have a really great performance against India."
Some of New Zealand's players have had a particularly busy time, in bio-bubbles of varying elasticities in the recent past. Ten of New Zealand's T20 World Cup squad were part of the IPL too; others like Glenn Phillips and Jimmy Neesham were part of the Hundred prior to that. Phillips had also turned out for Barbados Royals in CPL 2021. Meanwhile, the likes of Martin Guptill, Mark Chapman and Ish Sodhi have also spent extended periods in the UAE bubble after New Zealand abruptly called off the Pakistan tour in September, citing concerns around security.
During the T20 World Cup, former India T20I captain Virat Kohli had also cautioned against player burnout in trying to "cover up" for cricket lost to Covid-19.
New Zealand will also have to make a call on their regular captain Kane Williamson, who has been managing an elbow injury, which flared up during the warm-ups ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Meanwhile, there is optimism around Lockie Ferguson's return to action on the India tour. Ferguson had been sidelined from the entire T20 World Cup with a calf tear, hours before New Zealand's opener against Pakistan in Sharjah. He has since resumed bowling at the nets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, in addition to training with Tommy Simsek, the physio.
"In terms of Lockie, I think he is pretty close," Stead said. "We will just make sure we get over there, travel okay and there's no issues like seizing up on the flight or anything like that. But I'd expect that he's going to be available for selection, which will be fantastic.
"With all the guys that are going to prepare for the Test matches, we just have to make that call over there - whether we think it's in the best interests of them and also in the best interests of the team being that the Test matches are more of our priority, I think, in the next month than what the T20 matches will be."