West Indies in New Zealand 2013-14 December 23, 2013

Tricky decisions face New Zealand selectors

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Brendon McCullum believes he has players who are now confident enough to compare themselves with the best in the world and is eager for what should be another raise in standards from the visit of India.

Top of the pile in the captain's estimation was Ross Taylor, who scored 495 runs in the series against West Indies, followed by his new-ball pairing of Tim Southee and Trent Boult. McCullum has seen a shift in his players' attitudes during the year as they have begun to find some competitiveness in their Test cricket.

"It's early days, but we have some guys who are hungry to perform on the world stage and match themselves up against the best players rather than just being the best in New Zealand," McCullum said. "If Ross was to retire now he'd go down as one of our all-time greats - and I said we should enjoy the ability to watch a guy like that who will go down as one of our greats. The other guys, give them time, but they have the makings."

New Zealand now find themselves in the position where some tough decisions will need to made over selection - but for reasons of pressure from domestic cricket, rather than under-performance in the current XI although one or two of the side will be looking over their shoulder.

The return of Jesse Ryder to the one-day side has posed the tricky question of how, if he proves ready, does he fit back into the Test team. The only feasible option appears to be that McCullum reverts to opening the batting in place of the struggling Peter Fulton and Ryder slots into the middle order. However, there are other batsmen pressing their case in the Plunket Shield, led by Aaron Redmond who played the first Test against West Indies and Tom Latham, the left hander, who made 241 not out this week.

"Any time there is pressure coming from below it's a healthy state for the game," McCullum said. "Those guys are performing nicely and banking some significant runs. I still believe the guys in this team are performing well. You have to look at the pieces of the jigsaw and how they fit into that as well."

Another senior figure who will come back into contention is Daniel Vettori. He is currently playing the Big Bash League for Brisbane Heat but the New Zealand management are keeping in close contact with him. McCullum, though, continued to heap praise on Ish Sodhi, the legspinner, despite his limited role in the Wellington and Hamilton Tests. It will be a good test of the selectors' nerve whether they stick with Sodhi against the high-powered India batting order.

"I'm rapt with Ish," McCullum said." I know he hasn't bowled a great deal but it's great for his development, to be part of a side that is playing good cricket, and when he has been called on, he's done an excellent job. The luxury of having the pace attack we've got allows us to have the type of bowler Ish is. I've got a tremendous amount of confidence in not only his ability but also his cricket awareness and his character as a person.

"We'll have to speak to Dan and see where he's at. I know he's managed to get a lot of cricket recently, which is great. I caught up with him the other day and he looks young, fresh, fit and healthy which is great because he's been fighting some tough physical battles over the last few years but he looked pretty sprightly. With a bit more cricket under his belt that confidence in his body will continue to come back and it's a question we'll have to ponder down the track."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • The-Stoat on December 25, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    Why is no-one mentioning Jeet Raval? Surely he should be included for consideration in any future opening role in tests. Also Michael Papps could be in consideration having topped the run scoring over the last year in the plunket shield, though maybe they are looking to the future given his age? I would still have him in the current set up ahead of Fulton.

  • NZCricketfan1 on December 24, 2013, 17:11 GMT

    I support Mac staying in the team. His hundred in Dunedin was good and I expect he will get at least an 80 and a perhaps even a 100 against India.

    His batting style is very aggressive and this compliments the lineup. Our middle order looks very balanced with him in it. We just need Anderson and him to make the 30's into 50's and bat around our two best test batsman Williamson and Taylor.

    Perhaps Watling could swap with Anderson,but I think its about 5 and 6 hitting out a bit, with 7 in the bank as backup. I like it.

    Mac's average and Williamsons are around about the same so leave him alone chaps. (MAC has been 34 for the last couple of years)

    Ryder and Guptill should be left in the short form team. Ryder's technique at the top level in test cricket is suspect as is his temperament. We can't have both in the team and I think Baz offers more.

    As for the openers I would leave them as is. Especially Rutherford. The 48no was a big step for him. He scored ugly runs which is key.

  • cricketcritic on December 24, 2013, 9:18 GMT

    @wingman - it's simple re McCullum, any top order batsman who has played as many tests as he does, and who captains the side is expected to score runs and set an example. He does neither. His average is sliding towards 30 after he averaged over 40 in early stages of his career as an outstanding keeper / batsman. The gloves are off now...

  • wingman42 on December 24, 2013, 3:37 GMT

    Im sorry but I can't help but feel baffled with so many of you advocating for the exclusion of Baz. He is one of the few players in the world, who has the ability to change the dynamics of a whole test match in a session. Yes his average is not spectacular but I really believe hes better than that but I guess with his aggressive style of play he's always going to be hit and miss and I think with the emergence of a steady line-up around him, you have to live with that. Its part in parcel for Brendon and its unfair for all of you to ask so much from him.

    Regarding Guptill, I think he has to come in to the side sooner rather than later. I think he's too dam talented to miss. I would have him open alongside Ryder.

  • RobTay14 on December 23, 2013, 21:03 GMT

    I don't understand why Ryder doesn't slot straight in for one of the openers. McCullum can stay where he is that way, Ryder is used to playing first drop for domestic sides anyway, and he opens often in the shorter format, he did so for a long time for NZ. He is no stranger to the new ball. We don't want to chop and change too much a winning side. Everyone else is stable.

  • kiwicricketnut on December 23, 2013, 20:31 GMT

    @ SameOld, i think most fans understand wagner and fultons role, they just arn't performing them all that well, we could settle for mediocre performances just because we won, problem with that is it wasn't these players that won us the game. we arn't a good enough team to not try and identify and fix our weaknesses, better teams than the windies like india will exploit those weaknesses, i don't want a selection merry go round but if there are options banging on the selectors door then they should be tryed to see if they can do a better job otherwise you just get stuck with the same old ____

  • corzaNZ on December 23, 2013, 17:37 GMT

    Theres no doubting Guptill is a really good short form player, but there is no way he should be back in the test team yet. With all his potential he doesnt average 30 in test cricket. 2 hundreds, against Bang and Zim, take them away he averages 24 from 28 tests. Dont get me wrong im a fan of Guptill but he needs more FC cricket so hope he can carry on his form and he can make it back in the team in a year or 2 but not yet

  • hayjay on December 23, 2013, 12:17 GMT

    @James Stackhouse - Sorry James but were does McCullum say that Boult & Southee are as good as 2 of the best fast bowlers in the World? Great misquote to suit your own agenda there mate. You need to read what McCullum said again.

    He praises Ross but then goes on to talk about early days & a growing belief in the side to compete against the best in the World, it's a cautiously optimistic statement.

    He doesn't even mention Boult or Southee nor does he claim that our fast bowlers are equal to the best in the World lol.

    Boult (24) & Southee (25) are still relatively young when compared to Harris (34) & Steyn (30) & they probably won't reach their peaks for another 3-4 years yet, but they're already showing signs that they're going to have very successful careers.

    Boult is one of the leading wicket takers in the World this year & as a combo they have a 126 wickets @ 24.04 from 15 tests. You can't tell me that they don't have the potential to be a devastating W'Class combo.

  • dummy4fb on December 23, 2013, 10:33 GMT

    Ryder can open in Test matches, and if he really wants to be in the team, he will. Fulton is only there as long as he isn't re-exposed as a walking wicket. McCullum shouldn't stay in the team, but he will, and there's nothing anyone can do about that. To be honest, he is one of New Zealand's highest runscorers in Tests; that counts for something.

  • Patchmaster on December 23, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    It's not tricky. Williamson has to open with Rutherford. McCullum has to bat at 6 or or seven. If he makes runs in the next test series, he survives, if he doesn't, then he must go. The days are gone of just picking captains because they are good captains (i.e. Mike Brearly), they must perform as a player, ideally, a great player ! I like Sodhi as a spinner, Boult looks fantastic, Southee has found a bit of nip again, but Bracewell should be ashamed of himself, he had all the potential, then blew it, what waste of talent. Good luck Jesse and welcome back.

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