Opinion | Otago needs a batting reshuffle
Written By: Jeet Vachharajani
Picture Courtesy: New Zealand Cricket
The first time I watched Olivia Gain was in the Super Smash 2021 when she walked in to bat in the 19th over of the 1st innings & confidently came down the track to hit a 6 off Amy Satterthwaite to finish with 7* (2). That one hit was enough to suggest how she has an attacking mindset & I was impressed by it. She has always batted in the lower middle-order for Otago, but she opened in Mumbai against the West Indies U-19 when the New Zealand Development squad was touring India. She tormented the Windies attack to score 99 (58) with 11x4s & 5x6s.
This potentially resulted in the Sparks opting for a change up top & allowed Gain to open instead of Polly Inglis. They opted for a much more attacking option and it's a move that I 100% liked. She was also backed for a long time despite her low scores & that's another point to be appreciated. But, there comes a time when you should start to realize that it's not working out & need to change it before it gets worse.
Gain has technical flaws & she has gotten undone by that on a couple of occasions. She has a habit of planting her front-foot across as her first trigger and she gets stuck there. This limits her movement & range of hitting which often leads to trouble.
SPIN & PP WOES
Gain has a record that she'd like to forget. While she has done well against pace, she has not been able to score a single run against the spinners and has been dismissed 4 times.
These dismissals have not helped her play long innings and survive beyond the powerplay. There are some teams that always open with a spinner and it has played right into their hands. In the 5 innings that she has played, she has never survived beyond the powerplay.
Otago looked to fix their PP woes where they have been scoring at only 5.5 per over. Suzie Bates takes care of a lot, but there is a lot riding on her to provide a start. Bates is the only batter to strike at 100+ in the powerplay, but yet Otago is the worst batting unit in this phase of the game when the run-rate is looked into.
They pushed Hayley Jensen to #3 in the last game, but it was a move that is still very iffy. Otago will definitely be mindful of losing at least Bates, Jensen, & Eden Carson as the trio will depart for the T20 World Cup. Their fix lies in the form of opening with Bella James & promoting Caitlin Blakely as well. While James likes to take the game on, Blakely is the busiest batter I have watched in NZ cricket when it comes to looking for runs off every ball.
Sparks might at best get only 1 more game with their White Ferns & what they can do after that is as follows:
Open: Suzie Bates
Open: Bella James
#3: Olivia Gain
#4: Kate Ebrahim
#5: Caitlin Blakely