‘They always look to get better’ – Gary Stead reflects on New Zealand’s ‘special achievement’

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“That’s the most encouraging and pleasing thing that we are managing to do that on a daily basis”

With his New Zealand side seeing off Pakistan inside four days, Gary Stead could skip away from coaching to watch his daughter Libby play for Canterbury in the women’s Under-19 tournament in Lincoln. On the sidelines of that game, Stead reflected on New Zealand’s rise to the No.1 Test ranking, terming it a “special achievement.”

“I think what has happened, that sort of No.1 world ranking at the moment, is a pretty special thing,” Stead said. “There’s a lot of people and a lot of, I guess, expertise. The guys yesterday paid tribute to those people who came before to get them to this stage.

“I’m very, very proud in the way they continue to look to get better and we won’t always be No. 1 because rankings change, and when you start a game rankings mean nothing, so it’s still about playing good consistent cricket. That’s the most encouraging and pleasing thing that we are managing to do that on a daily basis”

Along the way, there have been murmurs that New Zealand’s climb to the top spot came with a caveat: they were swept 3-0 on their last trip to Australia in 2019-20 and they haven’t visited India since they were blanked 3-0 in 2016-17. Australia and India are the other contenders for the WTC final at Lord’s in June later this year.

When asked how New Zealand dealt with the talk of being home-track bullies – they are unbeaten in their last 17 Tests at home stretching back to 2017 – Stead played it down and pointed out that New Zealand have had overseas success in Sri Lanka, where they drew the series 1-1 in 2019 and the UAE, where they toppled Pakistan 2-1 in 2018.

“It’s the same [ranking] method they use for everyone,” Stead said. “Every place you go, it’s very hard to win away from home. That’s something we’ve talked about as a team is ensuring that all test wins are special but especially ones you win away from home. Yes, we weren’t at our best last year versus Australia but I can remember a few other test wins that we have done really well, in UAE and Sri Lanka, and they are just as special as the home ones as well.”

de Grandhomme to return to action in Super Smash

Allrounder Colin de Grandhomme, who had been sidelined from both the West Indies and Pakistan series with a foot injury, is set to return to action in the ongoing Super Smash 2020-21. According to Stead, he could turn out for Northern Knights from next week.

“He’s progressing well and we’re on track for either the 15th or 17th of January – hopefully that’s the return date for him probably only as a batsman at this stage,” Stead said of de Grandhomme. “He’s still going through development of his running protocols and getting up to speed where we want to with that and he’s just starting to get back to some bowling right now. “

As for fast bowler Lockie Ferguson (back injury), he is likely to undergo a scan next week.

“That will show whether there’s been a good amount of healing with the bone and whether we need to take it longer,” Stead said. “We’ll know more after that what are our next steps forward are.”

Meanwhile, left-arm fingerspinner Ajaz Patel has already marked his comeback from a calf injury with four appearances for Central Stags in the Super Smash. However, he has managed only one wicket in 15 overs, conceding at 8.26 an over.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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