Mason and Hitchcock get call-up for New Zealand
Central Districts fast-medium bowler Michael Mason and Auckland one-day specialist Paul Hitchcock are the big winners in the New Zealand cricket teams to tour India and Pakistan named today.
Mason, who twice served as 12th man for New Zealand last summer, wins his place as the result of the unavailability of fast bowler Shane Bond, who has still not recovered from injury to his back, and Chris Cairns whose partner is due to have a second child during the Test portion of the tour. Mason will have a head start in Indian conditions by flying to Chennai to take part in a Dennis Lillee-bowling clinic there. He will be accompanied by New Zealand Academy bowler Richard Sherlock.
Also missing from the Test side are Matt Horne and Mathew Sinclair.
Selection manager Sir Richard Hadlee said of Mason: "Michael has been a consistent performer in the State Championship and State Shield for several seasons and has earned his call up.
"He has the ability to bowl long spells of consistent line and length which will be useful on pitches that may not offer a lot of assistance. Over the next two weeks Michael will be attending the Dennis Lilliee, Chennai-based, bowling clinic which should be of benefit to him."
Richard Jones, the Wellington batsman taken to Sri Lanka at the end of last season, has been included again in the side that was wholly predictable in all other respects.
"Through circumstances beyond his control Richard was not given an opportunity when he was selected for the tour of Sri Lanka," Hadlee said. "We still feel he has something to offer the team at the top of the order particularly in the conditions we expect to face in India."
It is anticipated that Jones and Lou Vincent will be considered to open the Test innings. Acting team coach Ashley Ross said Vincent had shown by scoring his Test century on debut that he had the capability to handle the job. "Role clarity" was what Vincent required after having been used as something of a spare part in the last two years.
"By knowing where he is playing we hope that he can flourish to become the world-class player we believe he can be," Ross said. Hadlee admitted the selectors had not been consistent with Vincent. He also added that Vincent, in extreme situations, also offered wicketkeeping back-up.
Nathan Astle has recovered from knee surgery while Craig McMillan has also regained selection favour. Hadlee said McMillan had been left out of the Sri Lankan tour for form reasons and he had had time out to reflect. He had also been playing, albeit at only a club standard, over the winter with Lashings in England and he had a lot to offer still.
"Craig is very keen to re-establish himself in the team as a senior player and to contribute again as he has in the past. His experience will be vital in India and the opportunity is now there for him to perform and reclaim his place long-term," Hadlee said.
The Test side is: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Ian Butler, Robbie Hart, Richard Jones, Craig McMillan, Michael Mason, Jacob Oram, Mark Richardson, Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent, Paul Wiseman.
Hitchcock gets his chance again after being overlooked for the World Cup last season. His place is at the expense of Andre Adams. Hadlee said Adams' World Cup performances had been disappointing and while there was no doubt he was a potential matchwinner with both bat and ball the selectors had some concerns about him at the moment.
Ross said the selectors would be working with Auckland coach Mark O'Donnell to look at Adams' training methods to ensure he was getting the most out of the work he was putting in.
The one-day side to play in the tri-series against India and Australia is: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Ian Butler, Chris Cairns, Chris Harris, Paul Hitchcock, Brendon McCullum, Craig McMillan, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent.
Hadlee said the selectors have reserved the right to review the one-day selections before the Pakistan leg of the tour. He said that Cairns had been included in the one-day side as an allrounder which was what he wanted and the bowling he had been doing recently in the English county cricket in recent weeks had been encouraging.
Still unresolved is the opening batting question. It is likely that Astle will remain at No 3. A statistical analysis of his performance had shown that whenever Astle survived the first five overs of the 50 overs he made a significant difference to New Zealand's winning prospects and the selectors were keen to ensure that continued.
That leaves Vincent as a possible opener although Hadlee said it could also be an opening for Brendon McCullum. He had shown his ability to bat up the order in the past.
Ross said that McCullum was keen to assist in whatever role he could and wherever he could maximise his opportunities. While Chris Nevin's performances had not been at the level the selectors wanted to see and he needed to show them more, Hadlee said.
"With Andre Adams omitted from the side Paul will probably be required to bowl at the death where he will utilise his good change of pace. Paul also tends to skid the ball through which could make him very effective on the dry, low bouncing wickets that the team is likely to encounter."
Hadlee said Butler had been recalled to the one-day squad in the absence of Bond.
"With Shane unavailable Ian will give Stephen Fleming a pace bowling option. He is maturing gradually as a pace bowler and he will gain more valuable experience on this tour."
The selection of the side with Jones, Mason and Hitchcock all not on New Zealand contracts showed that the selectors were prepared to look outside the selection system.