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December 16, 2013
Brendon McCullum's days as an international wicketkeeper appear over after the New Zealand coach Mike Hesson conceded he was too valuable as a captain and batsman to risk behind the stumps with a long-standing back problem.
Barring one stand-in appearance at Headingley when BJ Watling was injured, McCullum has not kept in Tests since 2010 but had been keen to continue with the role in white-ball cricket after resuming the job in Bangladesh following a break earlier this year in England.
However, being forced home from Bangladesh when the protruding discs in his spine caused him severe pain, and prompted a bout of soul-searching about his future, appears to have helped him make a final decision.
"We're unlikely to use him as a keeper," Hesson said. "He's too valuable a player for us to consider using him as a keeper."
There is rarely a day where McCullum isn't in some discomfort from his back and Hesson added that he may not be able to play every match during the season. "We'd only rest him if his back was at a point where he couldn't play. That could well occur. He's made some good progress. He's always a bit stiff but it doesn't seem to affect his movement too much."
The end of McCullum as wicketkeeper means that Luke Ronchi, who made his New Zealand debut in the one-day series against England earlier this year before playing in the Champions Trophy, is set for a second chance to establish himself in the 50-over side.
Ronchi's initial stint in the team during the England tour saw him struggle as an opener, making 47 runs in six innings, and he was left out of the squad for the Bangladesh series until being summoned as cover, firstly due to Kane Williamson's broken thumb and then the keeping slot opened up again.
He returned to the side in a middle-order role, which he admitted was more comfortable for him, and improved his output with scores of 49 and 23 in the one-day series against Sri Lanka and an unbeaten 34 in the Twenty20.
Ronchi is not the only option for the gloves in the one-day team, which will be named on Thursday in Hamilton. Watling's Test form makes a strong case while Tom Latham, who toured England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is another in the frame.
However, Latham's route to a regular spot is hindered by a log-jam at the top of the order. He opened with Anton Devcich in the series against Sri Lanka, where New Zealand fielded an experimental line-up, and made 86 off 68 balls in the second ODI.
But Martin Guptill has recovered from injury and shown form in domestic cricket while the selectors are also keen to get Jesse Ryder back into the international fold ahead of the India series in January. Hamish Rutherford appears to have drifted down the pecking order for ODIs.
Earlier this year Guptill hit back-to-back hundreds against England, including a New Zealand record 189 not out in Southampton but missed the Bangladesh tour due to an ankle injury.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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