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Cricket news - Gary Stead calls for 'mental rest' ahead of busy summer

Gary Stead has words of praise for Mitchell Santner and Tim Southee

New Zealand head coach Gary Stead has suggested 'mental rest' for his squad ahead of a gruelling summer that will see them host England from November 1, travel across the Tasman for Tests against Australia in December and then return to host India in a full series between January and March.

New Zealand, who went through a gamut of emotions in the freakiest World Cup final since the inception of the 50-over showpiece tournament, on July 14 this year, had very little time to rest since. In less than a month's time since that evening where they tied but had to finish with the runners-up medal based on boundary count, nine of the squad members flew to Sri Lanka for the start of their Test championship campaign. That was followed by three closely-fought T20Is, wherein Kane Williamson and Trent Boult were afforded rest.

"The World Cup took a lot out of everyone, mentally more so than physically, then you're away for another 5-6 weeks at the start of the Test Championship. Whilst that brought a new focus it doesn't necessarily take away the feeling of tiredness and being on the road. It's important that the guys mentally have a break and get ready for a massive summer."

The New Zealand squad finished their away assignment in Sri Lanka on September 6, and can finally now put their feet up until series come thick and fast in the summer.

Colin Munro [Trinbago Knight Riders] and Colin de Grandhomme [St. Lucia Zouks), though, have a West Indian detour on their way home as they join up with their respective squads at the ongoing Caribbean Premier League, which will finish on October 12.

With a T20 WC a little over a year away, Stead kept a keen watch on how his players turn out in the three T20Is in Sri Lanka, and was pleased with the overall effort.

"We learned a lot... It was important for us to see different guys in situations. We had a number of injuries which was a challenge and we had some tight results, all three could have gone either way and it was good to be on the right side of two of them," Stead said. New Zealand chased down 176 and 161 in the first two games - through efforts of Colin de Grandhomme (in both fixtures), Ross Taylor and Tom Bruce to seal the series before the Lasith Malinga special downed them in the last game.

Stead also lauded the way Tim Southee - who led the team in Kane Williamson's absence - bowled as well as the impact of Mitchell Santner. On the slow surfaces in Pallekele, the left-arm spinner used his speed variations to good effect to nail the Sri Lankan batsmen down and create wicket-taking opportunities. Stead also doffed his hat to Santner's calm presence with the bat when the pressure mounted (in the second T20I).

"Tim [Southee] and Mitch [Santner] were outstanding with the ball, they were the rocks we could build our gameplan around. Colin [de Grandhomme] batted beautifully and showed a different side of his game, not necessarily power but also the ability to work the ball around. He was involved in a couple of key partnerships."

"He [Santner] bowled really well over a long period of time. And with his batting, he finished two games in two or three balls and managed to hit them out of the park. He's done that in the IPL as well and I think he's really learning to play that finishing role," Stead said.

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