Tim Seifert was fairly unheard of at International level when he was asked to open the batting at Wellington in the first T20I of the series against India in 2019. By the end of that T20I, nearly half a billion people knew who Seifert was.
The wicket-keeper batsman, who was inspired by Brendon McCullum and his style of batting, slammed India's bowlers to all corners of the Westpac Stadium to make 84 in 43 balls and set up a total of 219.
What stood out in Seifert's blitzkrieg was his unorthodox shots. At one point he even unleashed a reverse scoop as the darkest corners of the ground were peppered with boundaries.
"I kind of just looked at the field and, you know, it's all in the moment. I don't really practice it or anything, it's just kind of in the spirit of it, but I just thought of his angle, and obviously got him slog-sweeping a couple of times, so I thought he maybe might slow it up. Yeah, it's kind of a little punt you take, but it's T20 cricket for you," Seifert said at the end of that game in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Before that innings was dismissed off as a one-off knock, Seifert established his value yet again with a crucial knock at the top in the series decider at Hamilton. In 25 balls, Seifert hit 43, putting on 80 in 7.4 overs with his opening partner Colin Munro. It eventually paved for a New Zealand win and subsequently a Man of the Series award.
As India return to the island for a longer tour, Seifert remains a pertinent threat in the shortest format of the game which sees five matches. The wicket-keeper batsman has only sharpened his blades in the last one year. In the Super Smash this year, Seifert finished as the sixth highest run-scorer with 323 runs in 8 innings at an average over 40 and a strike rate of 143.55.
He opened in all games he played, however, after his exploits at the top against India, he has only opened twice in T20Is for New Zealand with Martin Guptill and Colin Munro pairing up. His last knock was, however, quite an impactful one - a power-packed 16-ball 39 against England in November in that tied T20I game at Auckland.
That said, Seifert brings more value at the top when he can exploit the lack of too many fielders outside the inner ring. He hasn't faced Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini or Mohammed Shami yet with India fielding Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya and Khaleel Ahmed on the last tour.
However, against the spin twins - Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav - Seifert has a mixed record. While he has hit Chahal at a strike rate of 300 (18 runs in 6 balls), he was dismissed off one of the only two balls he has faced from Kuldeep.
How the Kiwis use Seifert in this series could be interesting particularly with Martin Guptill and Colin Munro giving a good account of themselves in the T20Is against England. If Seifert doesn't open, can he capitalise in the middle-overs against spin and potentially form a contrasting pair with Kane Williamson?
Feature image courtesy: AFP/ Marty Melville