Colin Munro may not have been the most confident player in the New Zealand camp when the ongoing tour of India started last month. He had just returned to the ODI side, he was being asked to open for the first time in his international career and he didn't have the best technique to combat spin on the slow Indian surfaces. The troubles swelled when his opening partner Martin Guptill was unable to get strong starts, and Munro fell victim to slower balls for two straight matches at the beginning of the series.
After Munro's blistering half-century in the third ODI in Kanpur, the Indian bowlers thought of deceiving him with some slower ones again in the second T20 on Saturday. Munro didn't have to face many in the Powerplay, until debutant Mohammed Siraj sent down a few in his second over. That eighth over had two slower deliveries dispatched by Munro over his favoured leg side for sixes.
Munro showed his issues with slower balls was not a weakness, but only a brief trend based on a small sample size, something he overcame pretty soon, especially once the formats changed.
"To be honest, I wasn't expecting too many slower balls in the first couple of ODIs," Munro said on Saturday. "Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] and [Jasprit] Bumrah just bowled back of a length, trying to nick you out, get lbws. And the way I came out was aggressive and that made them change a bit. They bowled really well in terms of that. Bumrah's slower ball he has made a name of himself with that slower ball and Bhuvi's knuckle ball is very good with the new ball.
"[Now] it's Twenty20 and you've got to be aggressive. Tonight it came off, another night it might not."
India's best fast bowler against Munro on Saturday was Bumrah but he said changing his plans on the field was not easy and does not always work when a batsman like Munro is in that mood.
"You can't have a fixed plan," Bumrah explained of bowling to Munro. "Over here if you had a fixed plan that you bowl slower balls, he was hitting them really well."
As compared to the hitches at the beginning of the tour, Munro looks a different player now. Twenty20 is the format he is more suited to as he gets to express himself "more freely" without the pressure of building a long innings. Munro is a specialised T20 player who struck his first T20I century earlier this year against Bangladesh. He may have been dropped from the ODI side then, but he followed it by racking up 366 runs for Trinbago Knight Riders in the CPL, with three half-centuries, at a strike rate of 135. Munro had even considered turning into a freelance T20 player as he was not a regular in the ODI side and has played only one Test so far.
"I enjoy Twenty20," Munro said. "It's a game where you know it's a short game and you go out there to express yourself and when it comes off, it comes off. Sometimes you put too much pressure on yourself in the longer form where you've got to score runs all the time. In Twenty20, you just got to go out there and express yourself and take the good with the bad. Sometimes it comes off like it did tonight and the other night it didn't come off. You just got to go with the flow.
"I think I've always felt good in this format. It was just a matter of it hasn't quite clicked. It's one of those games where when you're going well, you're going really well. And when you're not, you're not. For me it's a mindset thing. I've tried not to expect too much from myself playing at this level or at Twenty20. It's just about trying to keep as even as you can and I think I've done that over the last two years."
Switching formats requires both technical as well as mental changes. To combat the challenges posed by India's quick bowlers, Munro batted with a slightly more open stance on Saturday that helped him clear his front foot and hammer four sixes over his preferred long-on arc, an area that fetched him 30% of his runs. The key is not only to score runs though. Munro is frank about why things have not worked for him in the past when he put too much pressure on himself.
"For me, the biggest part of being successful at this level is the mental side," Munro said. "I've scored runs for Auckland for a long time, it's just trying to get the same mental aptitude at this level. I think in the past I've probably put too much pressure on myself and haven't always cemented my spot in the team. So it's always what can I do to make the team rather than what I do now - which is what can I do to win a game. Or what I can do to contribute to the game. And that's what makes a difference. Even if it's 20 off 10, that's a contribution, whereas in the past I've been not good enough to stay in the team. But now it's more of a mental mindshift."
Munro's innings had the elements a T20 century usually has - he attacked from the very first ball he faced, he survived at least two chances - put down by the Indian fielders - and he collected a lot of runs off edges. Not just the innings on Saturday, his scores in T20 internationals this year also reflect the ups and downs of a T20 game: 0, 101, 0, 0, 7 and 109*.
No matter how the third T20 goes for Munro, he would be fairly pleased with the performances on the India tour so far. He now says he "loves" batting at the top of the order and scoring a hundred through the innings in India "means a heck of a lot".