West Indies in New Zealand 2013-14

Tricky decisions face New Zealand selectors

Andrew McGlashan

December 23, 2013

Comments: 25 | Text size: A | A

Trent Boult is ecstatic after picking up a wicket, New Zealand v West Indies, 3rd Test, Hamilton, 3rd day, December 21, 2013
Trent Boult produced consistently high-class spells of swing bowling against West Indies © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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...

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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 ____

Posted by 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

Posted by 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 9:32 GMT)

Lets give these guys a chance. NZ is in a rebuilding stage, and we finally have a winning formular. Yes WI is also understrength, but I believe its right for Baz to take that attitude to keep the guys moving forward. We are far from being world beaters, but if they don't believe they can beat the world, they never will. As for changes for the India series....based on Guptils recent form, I think he should come into place for Rutherford. I don't think Rutherford has done a bad job. My change there is to give Rutherford some space, let him play a bit more Plunket Shield to rebuild his confidence. I tend to agree to an extent that Sodhi will be taken to pieces by the Indians, so I can see him making way for Vettori. I like the fact the Hesson has persisted with Watling down the order. It gives the order strength lower down so we can start batting deep past the 80 overs. The structure is there, and there are plenty of people knocking on the door. Things are looking up for NZ!! :)

Posted by cricketcritic on (December 23, 2013, 9:10 GMT)

Hollow words from a skipper who barely deserves his place in the team. I'm sorry I just really struggle to take McCullum's assessments seriously when he consistently fails to back his words with his own actions. It feels like he's running spin and interference, I can't remember a more insincere cricket media personality. Ryder in, McCullum out and Williamson to captain the side.

Posted by jimbond on (December 23, 2013, 8:20 GMT)

Ryder can come in place of Brendan McCullum. That will strengthen the batting and the bowling.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 7:12 GMT)

rutherford guptil williamson (c) taylor ryder anderson watling southee vettori wagneri boult. i chose vettori for now as sodhi still needs work which can be done in the plunket shield and ford trophy

Posted by SameOld on (December 23, 2013, 6:53 GMT)

People misunderstand both Wagner & Fulton's roles in the side. Both are doing exactly what they are picked for, and doing an excellent job.

Yes, Fulton needs to find more singles, but he is seeing off the new ball more often than not, and that is helping Taylor get through his decidely shaky starts. The value this gives the team is self-evident.

Wagner bowls a lot of overs, in long spells, and is a very good technical bowler who holds to his captain's plans regardless of how much his average suffers as a result. Boult and Southee are similar to each other, but completely different to Wagner, so he is a great foil for them. He can bowl economically, but it looks as if Baz has asked him for fire lately, so fire is what Wagner delivers. Baz sets insanely aggressive fileds for him too, hence Wagner's high RPO/SR.

I want to see Ryder, Neesham, Milne and others play, too. But they need to wait for their chance. This side is winning and drawing Tests. Ain't broke, don't fix!

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 6:53 GMT)

"Brendon McCullum believes he has players who are now confident enough to compare themselves with the best in the world". That Brendon is where I beg to differ. Beating a sub-standard West Indian team doesn't mean you get to puff your chest out to any large degree. The only player who could consider himself up there with the best at the moment is Ross Taylor. Sorry, but Boult and Southee are not even near the league of Harris and Steyn for instance.

Posted by Rahul_78 on (December 23, 2013, 6:13 GMT)

Rutherford, Boult, Wagner and Southee are some serious young talents along with Williamson who is a class act. NZ skipper, leadership group and selectors need to be applauded here. No wonder the results are showing positively. With Ross back into the fold peacefully and scoring mountain of runs that one big hurdle is also crossed. However I get a feeling that NZ cricket is too lenient with Ryder. He has tendency to mess up every now and then. He then goes into forced or self exile and comes back after some time directly into the XI. No doubt he is a very good player but these kind of selections hurt the long term prospects of some young, talented and disciplined players. with Dan nobody needs to worry as if he is fit he will play and perform and if he feels his body is not cooperating then he wont come in the way of young Ish Sodhi.

Posted by Bishop on (December 23, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

Why is everyone convinced Fulton should be the man to go? Personally I think the opening pair have done enough to be persevered with...for the first time in years Kane and Rosco have not had to come in by the fifth over most tests. But even if changes do need to be made, I don't see why Fulton would be the man to make way. He has been far more consistent than Rutherford since his recall...in fact if you take away his 170 on debut, Rutherfords numbers look rather ordinary, whereas Fulton's numbers look quite good. More importantly, even if he doesn't score big, he bats time, which is really what you want in an opener. It was a pity he got out to a lazy shot in the second innings at Hamilton, but I think their contrasting styles are one of the strengths of the pairing. If you have to move BMac up to open, it shouldn't be with Rutherford as two reckless batsmen will put too much pressure on the middle order.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 5:49 GMT)

B-Mac's days are numbered if he won't keep wicket.

Posted by kiwicricketnut on (December 23, 2013, 5:48 GMT)

hard to get the balance right but in no way should in form players be dropped and neither will the captain so hopefully the test xi is 1.mccullum 2.latham 3.williamson 4.taylor 5.ryder 6.anderson 7.watling 8.neesham 9.vettori 10.southee 11.boult, that would be the team i'd like to see though i know wagner will probably keep his third seamer role, i'd only have vettori for sohdi against the indians who would own sohdi at this stage in his career, vettori should limit the damage, having mccullum open again is not ideal but its the least disruption to the side and you keep a left hand right hand combo by having latham as the other opener who is in amazing form and deserves rutherfords spot who needs to go back to domestic cricket and tighten his technique, neesham i think could do a great job as the third seamer and the rest of the side picks itself.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 5:36 GMT)

The middle order is strong, however the opening pair is an issue - I would like to see Guptill or Latham opening with McCullum, with Ryder slotting in at 5. On the other hand, Rutherford seems like he is worth persisting with, so McCullum becomes more of an issue than anything else

Posted by Fydd on (December 23, 2013, 5:32 GMT)

Ah no, not McCullum to open again. Hasn't got the technique to do consistently well opening. Both Fulton and Rutherford look shaky. So for all his faults I'd bring back Guptill. He is a better player than Fulton and Rutherford. McCullum is a real problem - his batting is just OK but he would be better as a keeper but he can't keep. Watling is a better option for opening than McCullum. Wagner is just scraping by. He is too slow and does not gain enough swing or seam to get wickets on many pitches. I am not sure who could replace him tho. A big problem at the moment is picking players on potential like Rutherford and Sodhi than actual results. So we need to see past the hype and see this NZ team as still pretty average.

Posted by youfoundme on (December 23, 2013, 5:30 GMT)

I'm sorry, but a century after three years and some aggressive tactics as captain should not cement your place in the side for very long. McCullum is going to have to perform as an opener or simply face the axe, because I could name at least half a dozen people more deserving of that middle order slot.

Posted by corzaNZ on (December 23, 2013, 5:10 GMT)

Ryder isnt a test match opener..... Since McCullum wont get dropped or step down the only option that looks likely is an opener being dropped and McCullum opens the innings or its a rough decision but Ryder could replace Anderson and bat 5 and McCullum 6, either option is not whats best for the team though. The most obvious one is, but that is never going to happen

Posted by Buckers97 on (December 23, 2013, 4:33 GMT)

1.Rutherford 2.Ryder 3.Williamson 4.Taylor 5.McCullum 6.Corey Anderson 7.Watling 8.Vettori 9.Southee 10.Wagner 11.Boult. This XI has the potential, in NZ conditions, to really get on top of India.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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