May 24, 2002

Matthew Hart wins international recall and Hitchcock called up

Hitchcock delivers a ball during the 2000/01 Shell Cup
Photograph © Photosport

New Zealand's quest to settle on their one-day team with next year's World Cup in mind took another twist today with the naming of 15 players for the tour of the West Indies.

Matthew Hart, the Northern Districts left-arm spinner, has been recalled from the international wilderness while the predicted call-up of Wellington medium-pacer Paul Hitchcock was confirmed.

Hart, who was in the 1999 World Cup side but who has not featured subsequently, was shaping as a long-term prospect after his success for New Zealand on the South African tour of the 1993/94.

But in recent times his bowling use has tailed off considerably, although he did make something of a comeback in the latter stages of this year's domestic season in New Zealand. He still has plenty to offer, and backs that up with his batting ability which saw him opening the Northern Districts innings last summer.

His selection is the result of the New Zealand selectors, Sir Richard Hadlee (chairman), Ross Dykes, Brian McKechnie and Denis Aberhart, being unable to settle on a second-string spinner as back-up to Daniel Vettori.

Vettori, who is still undergoing care in the aftermath of the stress fracture he suffered to his back, will not play all five One-Day Internationals in the West Indies and Hart is likely to be the other bowler used.

Indications that Lou Vincent's ability as a second-string wicket-keeper in the one-day side are clear from comments Hadlee made at the announcement. He said that Vincent, who had the ability to do anything he was asked except bowl fast, if he became the main wicket-keeping option allowed New Zealand to add even more strength to its one-day batting.

The two teams named by the selectors are:

ODIs: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, Ian Butler, Chris Harris, Matthew Hart, Paul Hitchcock, Matt Horne, Craig McMillan, Chris Nevin, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent.

Tests: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, Ian Butler, Chris Harris, Robbie Hart, Matt Horne, Craig McMillan, Chris Martin, Mark Richardson, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent.

One more player is still to be named for the Test side as the selectors consider their options during the playing of the five ODIs and also the pitch conditions the side is likely to strike in the West Indies.

Hadlee said Hitchcock had been a top wicket-taker in the State Shield and had one of the best averages.

He had been looked at and discussed in the past and had been given an opportunity now to stake a claim for more permanent inclusion.

Hadlee said his ability at bowling at the death, with his good change of pace, was one of the reasons he was being considered. He was not concerned that Hitchcock's last serious match play was the State Shield series, as he did not play in the State Championship for Wellington.

"It's a big ask but we are backing a player on what he's done in the past," he said.

The return of Shane Bond was most exciting.

"He's pretty frisky, he's pretty keen," Hadlee said and with his speed he had the ability to hurry the batsmen.

Hadlee said that there were other bowlers around the country who had been making their mark but the selectors didn't feel they were "up to the mark yet."

The selectors would not be naming any stand-by players but there were a number of training camps coming up from which any possible replacements might be chosen.

Team coach Aberhart said he didn't think the lack of cricket as a result of the early return from Pakistan would be a problem.

"I would expect the break to have done them a lot of good. There is a lot of excitement about going to the West Indies," he said.