Sylhet: New Zealand Test skipper Tim Southee is excited to kick off the new cycle of the World Test Championship with a two-match series against Bangladesh on Tuesday at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium.
"The guys have a great desire for Test cricket. They say it is the pinnacle of the game. Whenever we do play Test cricket, it is always special. We love and prioritize Test cricket," said Southee in the pre-match press conference.
The Kiwis had a brief pause in the red-ball cricket as they appeared donning the white jersey at the beginning of this year against Sri Lanka and England. Despite having such a hiatus in the longest format of cricket, Southee was upbeat on the eve of the first Test and is looking to do well in the new WTC cycle.
"The start of the new cycle is exciting. It is a tough place to play Tests. Bangladesh is strong in these conditions. We played Tests back at the start of the year. The last cycle didn't go as well as we planned. The guys involved in the first WTC cycle know how special it is to do well in this championship," Southee added.
New Zealand will be challenged by the Bangladesh team on a surface that will be a complete contrast to their home conditions. The pace bowling unit has been their strength in the red ball format, but Southee has backed the spinners to turn up in the sub-continent.
"We took a little look at the wicket. There hasn't been a lot of Test matches here. So there's not a lot of information and statistics to go back on. I think we are expecting a pretty good surface. Of course, spin will play a part in the match. We played in Pakistan earlier this year. The guys now have a lot of experience in the sub-continent," Southee said.
"It is foreign conditions compared to New Zealand. Pace plays a big role in New Zealand. Spin historically plays a big role in this part of the world. Our spinners have done some great things in Tests. We are looking forward to them showcasing their skills," Southee added.
One of the major drawbacks for Bangladesh will be turning up without their star players Shakib Al Hasan and Litton Das. Shakib sustained an injury during the recently concluded OCI World Cup while Litton is on a month's paternity leave after he and his partner were blessed with a child recently.
While commenting on whether New Zealand will get benefit from the absence of both players, Southee said, "Shakib has been a great player for Bangladesh for a long time. Litton Das is a class player. He has done well against us in the past. I guess it is a miss for them not having those guys. It gives opportunities to other guys to step in positions that have been occupied by those two guys."
New Zealand squad: Tim Southee (c), Tom Blundell (wk), Devon Conway, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson, Will Young.