A KEEPER BATTER at first, the New Zealand off spinner later switched to slow bowling. He is now the focal point of his team’s offensive on the subcontinent.
Because of his ferocity during training in the gym, Michael Bracewell earned the moniker “Beast” from Sam Wells, a former teammate at Otago. But as time went on, his position continued shifting.
When Bracewell played for Otago in the past, he would keep wicket and bat at the top. However, when he moved to Wellington, he took a risk and had more opportunities to roll his arm over. He doesn’t turn the ball very much and doesn’t have a lot of variations, but his precise offspin has helped him establish himself as the third element of New Zealand’s spin attack, following Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi.
Bracewell’s economy rate of 3.90 was the best in the series among all bowlers during the recent ODI leg of the Pakistan trip, which New Zealand won 2 to 1. He allowed just 117 runs in 30 overs for four wickets. On flat surfaces at home, Bracewell has also contributed with the ball, but it is his amazing control in Pakistan that has prompted New Zealand to play three spinners in addition to part-timer Glenn Phillips in the run-up to the ODI World Cup in India later this year.
When it comes to New Zealand’s spin assault, Bracewell provides something unique: drift. While Sodhi frequently gets the ball to rip and Santner persistently batters the stumps with subtle variations, Bracewell brings something else: spin. For Wellington at the Basin Reserve, he is accustomed to working with the breeze, and he has achieved success on a global scale by taking advantage of it. Babar Azam was stumped for 4 runs off of 13 balls last Friday in Karachi during the series finale when Bracewell used a drift and dip to trick him.
Also participating in the powerplay in Pakistan, Bracewell bowled into the pitch to shackle the hitters. He believes it is simpler to bowl during the powerplay than it is to complete the task during the middle innings.
The fast bowler population in New Zealand has always been sizable. They tested Pakistan in Pakistan despite Kyle Jamieson’s, Adam Milne’s, Matt Henry’s, and Adam Milne’s absence. On the front of spin, they are now developing a similar depth as well. Along with Santner, Sodhi, and Bracewell, the team’s recent white-ball rotation also included left-arm wrist spinner Michael Rippon and left-arm finger spinner Rachin Ravindra. The accuracy of New Zealand’s spinners on the domestic bash-through-the-line courses, according to Bracewell, contributed to their success abroad.
As part of New Zealand’s victorious chase of 301 from 120 for 5 last year at Malahide, Bracewell also demonstrated his ball-striking prowess by scoring an unbeaten 127 off 82 balls. He used to stand tall in the crease but has since dropped his stance to produce more power and access more fields. He believes that with more opportunities, he will develop into his hitting role and be adaptable.
Not all Bracewell athletes are competing for a spot in the World Cup. In place of the injured Henry, his cousin Doug, the Central Districts’ quick, is currently touring India. Doug could occasionally play for New Zealand given that Tim Southee will be rested for the series in India and Trent Boult will be participating in the ILT20 in the Emirates. Being able to play with his cousin is something Bracewell is looking forward to.
This tour of India is a warm-up for the ODI World Cup that will be held there later this year. According to Bracewell, “These tours [to Pakistan and India] are incredibly beneficial for us and for guys who haven’t played much in the subcontinent with the World Cup being in the subcontinent.” It has been quite helpful to play against a strong Pakistan side, and it will be no different against India. For the guys who have played more, it’s an opportunity to refine their games and return to what works in the subcontinent.
Bracewell was benched at the T20 World Cup in Australia last year, but he might play a bigger role with the ball and the bat in the World Cup in India – and also before that.