“Great memories. Yeah, it was a great day and hopefully can get another one tomorrow.”
Long before #BoundaryCountback (Sorry, Jimmy) but in the lead-up to it, Tim Seifert walked out under lights in Wellington and went beserk. It was only his 10th time at the crease in international cricket, his first as opener for New Zealand, and at the end of it, he had not only played a starring role in handing India their biggest ever T20I defeat but also set himself up to be a wildcard entry into the World Cup squad. Such was his X-factor, which on that day, was worth 84 runs off 43 balls.
The fairy tale didn’t quite have a happy ending with Seifert getting injured at the wrong time but he’s back now and there’s another ICC trophy lurking in the distance. The 24-year old is a value add to any T20 batting-line up with his array of unorthodox shots, ranging from the down-the-track, through-the-line wallops against extreme pace to artful little scoops over the wicketkeeper’s head, all of which made perfect sense when, after that 80-run thumping of India, he faced the cameras and said, “Kinda funny when I got told that I’ll be opening the innings. I YouTubed Brendon McCullum and watched some of his innings.”
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Only New Zealand have way too many top order batsmen. Martin Guptill and Colin Munro are the incumbent openers, whose pace has been key to the team maintaining a run-rate of 8.69. No other team, having played a minimum of 15 T20Is, has scored quicker since the last T20 World Cup. Kane Williamson, who was originally due to play these matches against England but had to pull out due to injury, is expected to be fit again by the time the Test leg of the tour begins on November 21. He rarely bats below his No. 3 spot in any form of the game.
All of that means Seifert has often had to make do as the outsider looking in. “I’d like to be at the top or bat three or wherever to be honest,” he said on Saturday upon returning to Wellington, the venue where he first announced himself. “We did start this series well here against India last year so hopefully we can do the same.”
New Zealand are 0-1 down against England, largely because of a poor start. They lost one opener in the third over and the other followed him off the last ball of the Powerplay, leaving the team playing catch-up for the rest of the innings. The coach Gary Stead has previously spoken of the difficulty in picking four specialist top-order batsmen in the same XI, although Seifert certainly seemed to like being in a competition for spots.
“Personally no, I don’t think it’s tense at all,” he said after batting at No. 3 against England on Friday. “I think it’s quite good. We have people there to discuss how we’re going to get better as individuals and having Munro and Guptill, they’re world class players, it’s awesome to have them there to talk about it. And yeah, once Kane comes in, we’ll have to think about it and that’s for the selectors and the coach to make their mind up.”
A lot of New Zealand’s success comes on the back of trusting their players and adapting quickly. But now it seems one skill is at odds with the other. They have a player not quite in form – Guptill – but he has served them very well in the past. They also have a limited number of matches to find back-ups. Seifert could be a good shout there, if he gets the time to bed into the role before enduring the pressure of his first senior ICC tournament.