2019 Cricket World Cup: Ish Sodhi's England Experience

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The selection of Tom Blundell in the Blackcaps World Cup squad was packaged as a notable inclusion, right alongside that of Ish Sodhi. Picked as one of two spin options, Sodhi has been in and out of Blackcaps ODI and Test teams like a yo-yo, which was no different this summer after he appeared to establish himself as a dynamic option in the first two ODI series of coach Gary Stead's tenure.

Although stats-wise, Sodhi hasn't exactly commanded consistent selection in ODI cricket, that's exactly what he got in the tour of United Arab Emirates and then the series vs Sri Lanka in Aotearoa. Playing all of the six possible ODI's across these two series, Sodhi took 2w @ 63avg/5.25rpo vs Pakistan and then followed it up with a series best 8w @ 18.50avg/5.16rpo vs Sri Lanka; Sodhi didn't just finish with the most wickets, he was the most economical off all wicket-takers in the Sri Lankan series.

Things got a bit weird from that point on, as India smoked every slither of the Blackcaps in that series and then, options were understandably explored ahead of the World Cup. Not that those options like Todd Astle, got a fair crack at laying down their case for World Cup selection though. Sodhi has had zero consistency in selection outside of T20I cricket for Aotearoa and the only bloke who has had a similar messed up selection situation is Astle.

I'm of the view that the Blackcaps could have very easily selected Astle, Sodhi and Mitchell Santner in the World Cup squad. Having explained that at length elsewhere, there's no need to explore it here and Sodhi was settled on for the World Cup. The line was rolled out that Kane Williamson backed the selection of Sodhi and upon reflection, this shouldn't come as any type of surprise if we remember how Astle was used when actually selection to play.

Comparing T20 work to ODI work is a niggly task and one that I rarely do. In the case of Sodhi though, his role as a leggy is perhaps the most translatable between T20 and ODI cricket. This is amplified when we consider the number of runs that teams will be looking to score and the aggressive batsmen that Sodhi comes up against in T20 cricket, will likely be taking a similar approach in trying to score 300+ at this World Cup.

Sodhi conveniently has experienced of this role in England, having played in the last two T20 Blast tournaments in England for Nottinghamshire. 2017 saw Sodhi bowl in 15 games, taking 15w @ 30.86avg/9.85rpo, before coming back in 2018 to bowl in 15 games and take 19w @ 23.21avg/8.16rpo.

While his 2017 work isn't terrible, the improvement is notable. If we take the experience of having played a fair amount of white ball cricket in England and then factor in the improvement aspect, this puts Sodhi in a lovely position. Wind this back to ODI cricket and the trend of improvement is enhanced considering that Sodhi's yearly ODI average has improved in each of his five years of ODI cricket...

2015: 47.28avg.

2016: 39.66avg.

2017: 34avg.

2018: 31.50avg.

2019: 30.50avg.

Sodhi is yet to play an ODI in England, which could be viewed as leveling out the T20 work in England and his blatant trend of improvement. I view it as the other way round, in that Sodhi's lack of ODI cricket in England is absorbed by playing a lot ot T20 Blast and showcasing the ability to improve; in either T20 Blast or ODI cricket.

Grant Elliott was the only kiwi bowler with a better record than Sodhi in the 2018 T20 Blast, while Lockie Ferguson was the only other World Cup squad member to feature in the top-38 bowlers. Having bowled 101 overs across two years of T20 Blast, Sodhi's experience in England could prove to be a factor and things get interesting when you consider that Sodhi is the only Blackcap with that experience.

Others don't need that experience, because they've played plenty of ODI cricket in England. For Sodhi though, his battle at this World Cup is going to be rather similar to the battle he faces every time he takes the field in a T20 game as he tries to stifle an attacking batsman. The improvement Sodhi has shown, reflects reasonably well on his work as a craftsman and we now wait to see if Sodhi will actually be used in any great capacity come World Cup time.

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