New Zealand tour of Bangladesh – Rachin Ravindra is living his dream, and loving it

“Pretty surreal,” Rachin Ravindra says, summing up his two years in international cricket, which was capped by a special ODI World Cup in India, where he scored 543 runs, with three centuries and two half-centuries.

“Things have happened quite quickly, and I am very fortunate to be here right now,” he said in Sylhet, where New Zealand are getting ready for a two-Test series against Bangladesh before heading back home where they will again play Bangladesh, though in a short-format series.

“At my age, being able to travel around the world playing cricket, playing a game you love, for a living is pretty special. [It] definitely has its ups and downs, but mostly I love every single moment,” Ravindra, just past his 24th birthday, said. “Look, I think it’s a testament to the team environment: to be able to come in and play with freedom, and enjoy my time learning from those guys who have been here for so long. It’s been great to rub shoulders with everyone, and hopefully I can keep learning from them.”

And transitioning from white-ball cricket to red-ball cricket is not a big deal. In fact, it’s something Ravindra said he looked forward to.

“I enjoy going back to red-ball cricket after that (ODIs) because that means your intent… you are almost looking to score, so, I mean, [it] keeps you in a good position to score,” he said. “But probably here [in Bangladesh] it depends on the conditions, what the pitch is doing, it’s probably going to dial that back a little bit, not as many risks. You can still play your natural game, by understanding the surface and the situation of the game dictates you.

“I think we sometimes don’t understand how long a Test match really is – you have five days of 90 overs each day, so there’s a lot of time here, so hopefully we can bring that calmness in the group from the one-dayers to the red-ball stuff.”

It has just been three Tests for Ravindra so far. Two in his debut series, in India in late 2021, and one against Bangladesh in Mount Maunganui early last year, which ended in a famous Bangladesh win. Ravindra’s numbers aren’t special in the format: just 73 runs from six innings.

“I really loved my first experience of Test cricket a couple of years ago, and [I am] really excited to see how my game has evolved,” he said.

“Bowl quicker than what we are accustomed to back home. If you are putting it in the area and dialling up the pace a bit more, hopefully have a bit of success”

Rachin Ravindra on bowling on the pitches in Bangladesh

Come Tuesday, in the first Test against Bangladesh on their own soil, Ravindra, if he plays, could bat much lower than the No. 3 position he took at the ODI World Cup. It will be different for sure.

“It obviously depends. You’ve got a little transition period, and you probably don’t have as much time to get yourself in; but also it’s Test cricket, so you actually do have a lot of time,” he said. “It’s a different role for sure; it’s not a new ball – I might come in and straightaway face a spinner.

“So [it’s] just [about] wrapping your head around that and seeing what sort of way you can adjust your game plan and get used to facing slower bowling instead of seam up top. But the beauty of it [is that] you contribute whatever way you can for the team no matter what role it is, and hopefully you contribute to a win.”

Ravindra the bowler ‘trying to do it my way’

Ravindra’s batting gives him an edge in terms of selection in the XI, but there’s a lot of quality in New Zealand’s spin-heavy squad in Bangladesh: Ajaz Patel, Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner (another allrounder, though primarily a bowler) are the specialists, and apart from Ravindra, there’s also Glenn Phillips, a batter with a knack of picking up crucial wickets with his offspin.

Sylhet, the venue of the first Test against Bangladesh, is known to be a bit more seamer-friendly than, say, Dhaka, but spinners should have a big role to play there too. The second Test will be played in Dhaka. So Ravindra, and the other New Zealand spinners, should be in the game. So Ravindra wants to learn as much as he can, especially from Ajaz and Sodhi; but for him, it’s about “trying to understand what they do well but still trying to do it my way”.

“Those wickets back in 2021 [when New Zealand played five T20Is in Dhaka] were very interesting, I guess,” he said with a laugh. “It was quite difficult to bat on, but it was good fun to bowl on.”

His takeaways from that trip? “Bowl with a quicker pace rather than what we are probably accustomed to bowling back home; if you are putting it in the area and dialling up the pace a little bit more, hopefully have a little bit of success.”

On that T20I tour, Ravindra scored 47 runs in five innings, including two ducks, and picked up six wickets, including a three-for, even as New Zealand lost 3-2.

Despite being a batting allrounder, Ravindra’s ability to bowl left-arm spin could see him given more responsibility with the ball than he might get elsewhere. At the World Cup, he was more than useful, not always picking up a lot of wickets – though the 2 for 21 vs Sri Lanka was quite cool – but more than pulling his weight as one of the fifth bowlers, returning a tournament economy of 5.98.

And like on the tour of Pakistan in April-May this year, New Zealand will have the services of Saqlain Mushtaq to fall back on in Bangladesh too. He has been working with the spinners in Sylhet, and Ravindra is “really excited” about it, and not just because of the obvious reason.

“Really excited to link up with him again, talk a lot about cricket, [and] about life. He imparts some great wisdom, so not just on the field but off the field [too].”

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