India is toughest place to ‘keep: van Wyk
Bengaluru, Sep 2: To Kruger van Wyk, pressure is nothing new. He says, “I’ve always had to fight my way through, whether it’s in cricket or in life.” Hence, he’s gotten used to playing cricket with his neck in the line of fire all the time. The 32-year-old New Zealand wicketkeeper made his Test debut earlier this year, against his country of birth, South Africa – when BJ Watling pulled out due to an injury.
He played six Test and the runs didn’t come easy. So after scoring 71 and 31 the ongoing Bengaluru Test – his seventh – van Wyk felt relieved. The runs were special for two reasons. First, because they came in India, the country he thinks is most difficult to tour; and second, because they have put New Zealand in a position – a second innings lead of 244 with a wicket in hand – from where they could upset the hosts to win the Test and draw the two-match series.
In a chat with bcci.tv, the diminutive wicketkeeper explained how enriching the experience of playing in India has been for him. He admitted that keeping wickets has never been as challenging for him anywhere else as it is turning out to be on Indian tracks.
How big is a Test tour to India at an early stage of your career?
It’s massive. If you look at places to tour around the world, one place where we want to succeed is the subcontinent, and especially India. People love cricket so much here and it’s something very new to every cricketer who walks in here first. You walk out to bat and there are 35,000 people around you who love the game. So, it’s a special place and an important place to be able to play well.
How challenging has it been for you as a wicketkeeper to adapt to Indian tracks?
This is probably the toughest place where I’ve had to ‘keep. I thought it would be West Indies, but it turned out to be a quite nice place to ‘keep. There’s a lot of variable bounce in India so it becomes very tough. Since you have to ‘keep really close to the wicket, some shoot through and some keep low. This is a place where we have to adapt the most and get used to. I have never kept in the subcontinent before and this is my first tour. So, this is a hell of an experience and something I’m richer for.
Is it tougher to keep to spinners or pacers on such wickets?
I actually think it is easier to keep to a spinner here than it is to keep against seam bowlers because of the swing and the uneven bounce. With a spinner, you expect the ball to turn and so get a little more used to it.
How important has Brendon McCullum’s presence been for you on this tour? He has decent experience of ‘keeping in India.
Bazz is wonderful. He’s always honest; he tells me when to get a bit closer and when to try other things. I go to him a lot with queries and ask him a lot of questions. It’s great having a guy like him around. I value that a lot.
There was a lot of pressure on you going into this Test. Do you feel relieved after scoring some runs now?
Yes, I was aware of that pressure; it was a big test and it still is. The result is the most important thing to me. If I’m brutally honest, I couldn’t care less if I got a pair here and we won the Test match. At the end of the day, I just want us to win matches. I’ve had a lot of starts and scored a lot of 30s, like I did today as well. But yes, I needed a big score and I’m glad I got some runs in this match.
How hard is it to play when you know that you’re just one failure away from being dropped?
Yes, it is tough when you know that you’re playing for your life all the time. But having said that, I grew up with that. I’ve always had to fight my way through, whether it’s in cricket or in life. So, after a while, you get pretty used to it and you learn that getting too intense is not going to help. So you just go for it; have faith in God and enjoy yourself.
You have the best view of the wicket. How would you asses this one?
This is a very different wicket to the one in Hyderabad. The one there was very dry, while this one has a bit of moisture in it, but also there are a lot of cracks. There’s not as much turn here as there was in Hyderabad but the uneven bounce and the cracks make it difficult to bat on this one
You batted on this wicket on Day 1 of the Test and also today. Has there been any change?
I don’t think there was a massive change in both innings. There wasn’t much swing today because we batted more in the sun. There was a little bit of reverse swing; but I don’t think things have changed that much.
How confident is the team of defending 244 on this track?
We’re aware that we’re up against some of the great cricketers. They’re really good and we respect that. But we’re quietly confident. We’re not going to shout from the roof tops how happy we are about things and will be very humble in our approach. But we know that tomorrow could be a massive day for us.
Test debut at 32. How was the experience?
It was unbelievable and very special, especially because it came against the country of my birth [South Africa]. Yes, I had to wait really long and go through so much to get there. I’m really happy to be here; I really want to make a fest of this opportunity, keep improving and keep doing well.