Variable conditions in the United Arab Emirates have made the ability to adapt a vital skill for all teams at the Twenty20 World Cup but New Zealand’s Daryl Mitchell has had to be more flexible than most players.
The 30-year-old batsman had expected to be battling for a middle order spot at his first World Cup but coach Gary Stead threw him in at the deep end with a move to the top of the order.
Mitchell, son of former of former All Blacks rugby coach John, made a decent fist of his match as an opener in the loss to Pakistan before really finding his touch with a fluent 49 off 35 balls to help the Black Caps thrash India on Sunday.
The power hitter said he prided himself on his adaptability and had not hesitated when offered the chance to open.
“It’s an opportunity to face more balls, and it’s a role where if you go as well, you can help your team win games of cricket,” Mitchell told reporters from the UAE.
“I was just really excited to get the opportunity to play for New Zealand at a World Cup. It’s something that you always dream of and to take on India was even cooler.”
Stead said after the India match that he had selected Mitchell to top the order with Martin Guptill as much for his attitude as for his ball-striking skills.
“He’s got a lot of attributes that we like, we love his competitiveness, the way he takes on teams as well,” he said.
The victory over India means New Zealand will now qualify for the semi-finals if they win their last three matches against Scotland, Namibia and Afghanistan.
In a reflection, perhaps, of the cautious approach of the whole New Zealand squad, Mitchell said he considered Scotland “dangerous” opposition and he would not be taking them lightly in Dubai on Tuesday.
“The World Cup is a funny old game, especially in conditions that are here with the pitches that bring everyone close,” he added.
“So, we’re going to have to be ready to go from ball one.”