With Pakistan and New Zealand set to meet in six limited overs games in the UAE this winter, former Black Caps coach Dayle Hadlee believes the return of mercurial fast bowler Shane Bond from injury can swing the matches in the Kiwi's favour. "It's going to be exciting seeing him return. Shane will put the sting back into the bowling attack which has been missing for the last two years," said Hadlee, the head coach at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Global Cricket Academy (GCA) at Dubai Sports City, one of the match venues.
Having coached Bond since the tender age of six, Hadlee is still in regular contact with the Kiwi right-armer. "I got an email from Shane on Monday and he gave me an update on his technique, he's got a few new ideas," he said. "He's in a good place physically and technically." Although the four one-day games and two Twenty20 matches are home games for Pakistan, Hadlee believes New Zealand have sufficient ammunition in their ranks to win.
"In the top teams today anyone can beat anyone," he said. "Pakistan will be full of confidence and the Kiwis will need to acclimatise to the conditions, which could have a significant bearing on the result. "But Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum can match the hitting power of Shahid Afridi and there's also Kyle Mills with his ability to swing the new ball and change the pace," he said. "It's going to be exciting seeing the national side here in the UAE."
According to Hadlee, who played 26 Test matches and 11 one-day games for New Zealand, a lot will depend on the pitch. "Pakistan will prepare a pitch to suit their game," he said. "If it's hard and bouncy it could lead to a lot of innovative shots and if it's hard and fast, it will suit the game of cricket. "It's likely the grass will be cut short, making it slow and low and a typical sub-Continent pitch."
That will suit Daniel Vettori, the Kiwi captain and premier spinner, said Hadlee. "He'll take the pace off the ball, he's the master of changes in pace," he said. And with several of the Black Caps squad having gained valuable experience playing on the Indian Premier League (IPL) pitches - similar in pace to those they will face in the Emirates - Marc Archer, the General Manager of ICC's GCA, is another Kiwi expecting a tight series.
"New Zealand's record in the short forms of the game has been pretty good," said Archer. "Their world ranking in ODIs is higher than Test matches and they compete well in the game's short forms. Many of the New Zealand players have exposure to sub-continent conditions through the IPL where they're playing regularly." Following the highly-successful Pakistan and Australia matches which opened the purpose-built, all-seater stadium at Dubai Sports City earlier this year, Archer is predicting more capacity crowds. "It's a modern, state-of-the-art playing facility and although it's a neutral venue, it will be a home crowd for Pakistan and a fantastic atmosphere," he added.